Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park (formerly Wankie Game Reserve) is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe. It is around 14,600 sq km in area. It lies in the northwest of the country, just off the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The nearest town is Dete. Histories of the region's pre-colonial days and its development as a game reserve and National Park are available online [3][4][5]

Hwange National Park
Down the water hole.jpg
African bush elephants in a waterhole of the park
Hwange National Park location.png
The park (in red) on a map of Africa with Zimbabwe highlighted
LocationMatabeleland North, Zimbabwe
Nearest cityHwange
Coordinates18°44′06″S 26°57′18″E / 18.735°S 26.955°E / -18.735; 26.955Coordinates: 18°44′06″S 26°57′18″E / 18.735°S 26.955°E / -18.735; 26.955
Area14,651 km2 (5,657 sq mi)[1]
Established1928 as a Game Reserve[2] (1961 as a National Park)[1]
Governing bodyZimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority

History of the parkEdit

Hwange National Park was founded in 1928.[2] It is considered for inclusion in the five-nation Kavango - Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.[6]

Poaching incidentsEdit

In 2011, nine elephants, five lions and two buffaloes were killed by poachers.[citation needed]

In October 2013 it was discovered that poachers killed a large number of African elephants with cyanide after poisoning their waterhole. Conservationists have claimed the incident to be the largest illegal killing of animals in Southern Africa in 25 years.[7][8][9][10] Two aerial surveys were carried to determine the extent of the deaths, and 19 carcasses were identified in the first survey[11] and a further 84 carcasses in the second survey.[12][13] Three of the poachers were caught, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced. All royal game and elephant poaching offences now have a mandatory 9-year sentence and the supply chain is also targeted.

Cecil and Xanda hunting incidentsEdit

On or about 1 July 2015, Cecil, a lion who had lived on Hwange National Park for 13 years, was killed.[14] This action spurred widespread social media coverage[15] and a petition calling for Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe to outlaw big game hunting permits.[16] Walter Palmer, the admitted killer of Cecil, had a permit and was not charged with any crime, as all his papers were in order.[17] Authorities in Zimbabwe have said he is free to visit the country. Charges were initially laid against Theo Bronkhorst, Palmer's guide, for "failing to stop an illegal hunt" but these were later thrown out of court.[18]

Two years after Cecil's killing, his son Xanda met a similar fate. Unlike that of his father, Xanda's killing was not termed illegal, though it did provoke outrage.[19][20][21]



Game at a pan in a vlei or seasonal wetland

The park is close to the edge of the Kalahari desert, a region with little water and very sparse, xerophile vegetation. The Kalahari woodland is dominated by Zambezi Teak, Sand Camwood (Baphia) and Kalahari bauhinia.[22] Seasonal wetlands form grasslands in this area.

The north and north-west of the park are dominated by mopane woodland.[2]

Although it has been argued that elephant populations cause change in vegetation structure,[23][24] some recent studies suggest that this is not the case, even with the large increases in elephant population recorded in the late 1980s.[25]


Lion resting near a termite mound

The Park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species,[26] including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. All Zimbabwe's specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in small numbers.

Grazing herbivores are more common in the Main Camp Wild Area and Linkwasha Concession Area, with mixed feeders more common in the Robins and Sinamatella Wild Areas, which are more heavily wooded.[27] Distribution fluctuates seasonally, with large herbivores concentrating in areas where intensive water pumping is maintained during the dry season.[28]

The population of the Cape wild dogs to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the larger surviving groups in Africa today, along with that of Kruger National Park and Selous Game Reserve.[29][30]

Other major predators include the lion, whose distribution and hunting in Hwange is strongly related to the pans and waterholes.[31] Since 2005, the protected area is considered a Lion Conservation Unit together with the Okavango Delta.[32]

African leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah are also present in the protected area.[citation needed]

Elephant at Longone Pan

Elephants have been enormously successful in Hwange and the population has increased to far above that naturally supported by such an area.[33] This population of elephants has put a lot of strain on the resources of the park. There has been a lot of debate on how to deal with this, with parks authorities implementing culling to reduce populations,[34] especially during 1967 to 1986. The elephant population doubled in the five years following the end of culling in 1986.[35]

National Parks Scientific Services co-ordinates two major conservation and research projects in the park:

  • National Leopard Project, which is surveying numbers of leopard to obtain base-line data for later comparative analysis with status of leopard in consumptive (hunting) areas and Communal Land bordering the National Park.[36] This is carried out at Hwange in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit of Oxford University and the Dete Animal Rescue Trust, a registered wildlife conservation Trust
  • Painted Dog Project: The project aims to protect and increase the range and numbers of African wild dog both in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa, and operates through the Painted Dog Conservation organisation in Dete.[37]


A southern ground hornbill

This overview is only one indication of the diversity of birds in the park and is not a complete list.

Geography and geologyEdit

Most of the park is underlain by Kalahari Sands.[39] In the north-west there are basalt lava flows of the Batoka Formation, stretching from south of Bumbusi to the Botswana border.[40][41][42] In the north-central area, from Sinamatella going eastwards, there are granites and gneisses of the Kamativi-Dete Inlier[43] and smaller inliers of these rocks are found within the basalts in the north-west.[44]

The north and north-west of the park are drained by the Deka and Lukosi rivers and their tributaries, and the far south of the park is drained by the Gwabadzabuya River, a tributary of the Nata River. There are no rivers in the rest of the park, although there are fossil drainage channels in the main camp and Linkwasha areas, which form seasonal wetlands. In these areas without rivers, grassy pan depressions and pans have formed. Some of these pans, such as many of the pans in the Shumba area, fill with rainwater, while others, such as Ngweshla, Shakwanki and Nehimba, are fed by natural groundwater seeps.[45][46] Many of the pans are additionally supplied by water pumped from underground by park authorities.[47]

Archaeological, historical and cultural sitesEdit

People have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years, as attested by numerous archaeological sites ranging from early Stone Age to the historic era. Stone age foragers hunted and gathered in the region, leaving numerous sites with stone tools throughout today's park. They made engravings of animal hoofprints on sandstone rockshelter walls with some small rock paintings in the park's northwest.[48] Iron-age people built large and small stone-walling sites in the park, such Mtoa [49] and the Bumbusi National Monument.[2] Information about the people who once lived in today's park is available online[50][51].[2]

Places of interestEdit

Map of Hwange National Park

Main Camp areaEdit

  • Umtshibi camp, the headquarters of the park maintenance unit[47]
  • Mtoa Ruins and Pan
  • Dopi vlei, a fossil river containing Dopi Pan
  • Kennedy vlei, a fossil river also known as Massumamalisa, containing the Kennedy 1, Kennedy 2 (named after Sir John Noble Kennedy, Governor of Southern Rhodesia[47]) and Massumamalisa (Somalisa) Pans
  • Manga vlei, a fossil river also known as Amanga, containing the Manga Pans
  • Nyamandhlovu Pan (the name refers to elephant meat) and game-viewing platform, one of the most popular game-viewing sites[2]
  • Guvalala Pan and game-viewing platform, rehabilitated by scouts from Kent, UK in the 1990s[52]
  • Dom Pan, where lion are often seen[2]
  • Chivasa Pan
  • Longone Pans, named after the chief cook during the first warden's time[47]
  • Ngweshla Pan, a waterhole heavily frequented by game since before the park's proclamation[2]
  • Shapi Pan, another waterhole heavily frequented by game since before the park's proclamation[2] and former headquarters of the park maintenance unit[47]
  • Sibaya Pan

Sinamatella areaEdit

  • Chawato Springs, a mineral spring north-west of Sinamatella on the Bumbusi road[53]
  • Dabashuro (Dobashura) Spring, a mineral spring west of Sinamatella[53]
  • Salt Springs
  • Tshakabika Hot Springs, a thermal spring east of Sinamatella[53]
  • Lukosi River
  • Mandavu Dam and picnic site
  • Masuma Dam, with a thatched shelter overlooking the dam, as well as a camping ground and picnic site[54]
  • New Inyantue Dam
  • Tshompani Dam
  • Dandari (Dandaro) Vlei, Plains and Pan
  • Kapula Vlei
  • Tiriga (Triga) Vlei, a fossil river
  • Shuma Pans, a series of waterholes heavily frequented by game since before the park's proclamation,[2] with a hide and picnic site
  • Nehimba Pan
  • Tshompani Pan

Linkwasha concession areaEdit

  • Inkwazi Vlei, a fossil river
  • Makololo Pans and Plains
  • Somavundhla Pan

Dzivanini wilderness areaEdit

  • Liputi (Libuti) Camp and well. The name means a meeting place[2]
  • Kordoziba Gate
  • Nata River
  • Gwabazabuya (Gwabadzabuya ) River
  • Limpandi Dam
  • Dzivanini (Sibanini) Pan and mudflats

Shakwanki wilderness areaEdit

  • Shakwanki Pan; the name means ear and is a reference to its shape[47]
  • Tamasanka Pan, on the Hunters Road from Tati to Mpandamatenga
  • Xixi Amabandi Pan

Tsamhole wilderness areaEdit

  • Tsamhole (Tsamahole) Pan and firetower, on the edge of extensive mudflats. The name refers to a waterhole owned by two people[2]
  • Bumbumutsa Pan; the name means bumble bee[2]
  • Reedbuck vlei, at the headwaters of the Deka River

Accommodation and campingEdit

The park has three large rest camps and four smaller permanent camps. A history of the establishment of the large camps is available online.[55]

Main campEdit

Nyamandhlovu Pan, near Main Camp

This is the park headquarters, in the north-east, easily accessible by tarred road from the main BulawayoVictoria Falls road.[26]

Camping and picnic sitesEdit

Masuma Dam from the hide in the camp
Shumba Pan from the hide near the camp

In addition, overnight camping is permitted at picnic sites and some of the platforms overlooking waterholes; bookings must be made in advance with the National Parks board. Camping is restricted to one party at a time and during the day, the facilities are open to all visitors. The sites are:

  • Nyamandhlovu Platform
  • Guvalala Platform
  • Kennedy 1 Picnic Site
  • Jambile Picnic Site
  • Ngweshla Camp
  • Shumba Camp
  • Masuma Camp, a fully fenced site with two flush toilets, a shower and hide overlooking the dam[54]
  • Mandavu Dam
  • Deteema Dam hide[26]


  1. ^ a b National Parks and Nature Reserves of Zimbabwe, World Institute for Conservation and Environment Archived 16 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l G. Child; B. Reese (1977). Wankie National Park. National Parks and Wildlife Management of Rhodesia.
  3. ^ Haynes, G.; Klimowicz, J. (2020). Hwange National Park's Historic and Pre-Historic Places (Report). Unpublished. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.31002.06086.
  4. ^ Haynes, G. (2020). "The Forest with a Desert Heart". Hwange National Park: The Forest with a Desert Heart (Report). doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.19784.55043.
  5. ^ Haynes, G. (2020). "Colonial Days; Ted Davison Makes A Great Game Reserve". Hwange National Park: The Forest with a Desert Heart (Report). doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.23441.45922.
  6. ^ "Hwange National Park". Venture To Zimbabwe. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Zimbabwe elephants poisoned by poachers in Hwange". BBC News. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  8. ^ Death by cyanide: poachers kill 40 elephants in Zimbabwe as China drives ivory demand
  9. ^ "Poachers kill 300 Zimbabwe elephants with cyanide". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Zimbabwe elephants poisoned by cyanide". BBC News. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  11. ^ Colin Gillies (November 2013). Report on Hwange Elephant Poisoning (Report). Matabeleland Branch, Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe.
  12. ^ Colin Gillies (November 2013). 2nd Report Hwange Elephant Poisoning (Report). Matabeleland Branch, Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe.
  13. ^ Zimbabwe elephants poisoned by poachers in Hwange[1]
  14. ^ "Zimbabwe hunter loses bid to have Cecil case dropped". Yahoo! News. 20 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Cecil the Lion's Death Prompts Social Media Outcry - US News". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  16. ^ "How the internet descended on the man who killed Cecil the lion - BBC News". BBC Online. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Zimbabwe will not charge U.S. Dentist for killing Cecil the lion".
  18. ^ Bale, Rachael (11 November 2016). "Cecil the Lion: Charges Dropped Against Professional Hunter". National Geographic. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Xanda, son of Cecil the lion, killed by hunter in Zimbabwe". BBC News. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  20. ^ Bever, L.; Brulliard, K. (20 July 2017). "Cecil the lion's son has 'met the same fate' — killed in a trophy hunt in Zimbabwe, reports say". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  21. ^ Damian Carrington (20 July 2017). "Son of Cecil the lion killed by trophy hunter". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  22. ^ M.A. Hyde; B.T. Wursten; P. Ballings (2010). "Flora of Zimbabwe: Outing no. 6: Visit to Hwange National Park and Bulawayo". Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  23. ^ Holdo, R.M. (2007). "Elephants, Fire, and Frost Can Determine Community Structure and Composition in Kalahari Woodlands" (PDF). Ecological Applications. 17 (2): 558–68. doi:10.1890/05-1990. PMID 17489259. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2010.
  24. ^ Cumming, D.H.M., Fenton, M.B., Rautenbach, I.L., Taylor, R.D., Cumming, G.S., Cumming, M.S., Dunlop, J.M., Ford, G.S., Hovorka, M.D., Johnston, D.S., Kalcounis, M.C., Mahlanga, Z., and C.V. Portfors (1997). "Elephants, woodlands and biodiversity in southern Africa". South African Journal of Science. 93: 231–236. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Valeix, Marion; Fritz, Hervé; Dubois, Ségolène; Kanengoni, Kwanele; Alleaume, Samuel; Saïd, Sonia (2007). "Vegetation structure and ungulate abundance over a period of increasing elephant abundance in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe". Journal of Tropical Ecology. 23: 87. doi:10.1017/S0266467406003609. S2CID 55750086.
  26. ^ a b c "Hwange National Park". Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  27. ^ Chamaillé-Jammes, Simon; Valeix, Marion; Bourgarel, Mathieu; Murindagomo, Felix; Fritz, Hervé (2009). "Seasonal density estimates of common large herbivores in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe" (PDF). African Journal of Ecology. 47 (4): 804–808. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.2009.01077.x. hdl:11427/28050. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 March 2022.
  28. ^ Valeix, Marion (2011). "Temporal dynamics of dry-season water-hole use by large African herbivores in two years of contrasting rainfall in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe". Journal of Tropical Ecology. 27 (2): 163. doi:10.1017/S0266467410000647. S2CID 85918271.
  29. ^ Woodroffe, Rosie; Ginsberg, Joshua R. (1999). "Conserving the African wild dog Lycaon pictus. I. Diagnosing and treating causes of decline". Oryx. 33 (2): 132. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3008.1999.00052.x.
  30. ^ Girman, D. J.; Vilà, C.; Geffen, E.; Creel, S.; Mills, M. G. L.; McNutt, J. W.; Ginsberg, J.; Kat, P. W.; et al. (2001). "Patterns of population subdivision, gene flow and genetic variability in the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)" (PDF). Molecular Ecology. 10 (7): 1703–23. doi:10.1046/j.0962-1083.2001.01302.x. PMID 11472538. S2CID 24540274.
  31. ^ Valeix, M.; Loveridge, A.J.; Davidson, Z.; Madzikanda, H.; Fritz, H.; MacDonald, D.W. (2009). "How key habitat features influence large terrestrial carnivore movements: Waterholes and African lions in a semi-arid savanna of north-western Zimbabwe". Landscape Ecology. 25 (3): 337−351. doi:10.1007/s10980-009-9425-x. S2CID 24083943.
  32. ^ IUCN Cat Specialist Group (2006). Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera leo in Eastern and Southern Africa. IUCN, Pretoria, South Africa.
  33. ^ B. Williamson (1975). "Seasonal distribution of elephant in Wankie National Park". Arnoldia.
  34. ^ G. Child (2004). "Elephant Culling in Zimbabwe". Zimconservation Opinion. 1: 1–6. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
  35. ^ Chamaillé-Jammes, Simon; Fritz, Hervé; Holdo, Ricardo M. (2007). "Spatial relationship between elephant and sodium concentration of water disappears as density increases in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe" (PDF). Journal of Tropical Ecology. 23 (6): 725–728. doi:10.1017/S0266467407004531. S2CID 85577974. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2010.
  36. ^ "Zimbabwe National Leopard Survey" (PDF). Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Retrieved 10 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ "Painted Dog Conservation Organisation: – End of Year Report 2011" (PDF). Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Retrieved 10 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ a b c "Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, October 2017". Independent Travellers. independent-travellers.com. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  39. ^ J.C.Ferguson (1938). Geological reconnaissance in the Wankie Game Reserve (Report). Zimbabwe Geological Survey Technical Files.
  40. ^ B.Lightfoot (1912). "The Geology of the North-Western Part of the Wankie Coalfield, Southern Rhodesia". Southern Rhodesia Geological Survey Bulletin. 4 (1).
  41. ^ R.L.A. Watson (1960). "The Geology and Coal Resources of the Country around Wankie, Southern Rhodesia". Southern Rhodesia Geological Survey Bulletin. 48.
  42. ^ B. Lightfoot (1914). "The Geology of the North-western part of the Wankie Coalfield". Southern Rhodesia Geological Survey Bulletin. 4.
  43. ^ N.H. Lockett (1979). "The Geology of the Country Around Dett". Rhodesia Geological Survey Bulletin. 85.
  44. ^ D. Love (1999). "Crystalline inliers to the south of Hwange". Geological Society of Zimbabwe Newsletter (July 1999): 5.
  45. ^ Loveridge, A. J.; Hunt, J.E.; Murindagomo, F. (2006). "Influence of drought on predation of elephant (Loxodonta africana) calves by lions (Panthera leo) in an African wooded savannah". Journal of Zoology. 270 (3): 523–530. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00181.x.
  46. ^ Dudley, J. P.; Craig, G. C.; Gibson, D. ST. C.; Haynes, G.; Klimowicz, J. (2003). "Drought mortality of bush elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe". African Journal of Ecology. 39 (2): 187–194. doi:10.1046/j.0141-6707.2000.00297.x.
  47. ^ a b c d e f T. Davison (1967). Wankie: The Story Of A Great Game Reserve. Books of Africa. p. 211.
  48. ^ "Hwange National Park's Historic and Prehistoric Places". researchgate.net.
  49. ^ "Mtoa Ruins, Hwange National Park". researchgate.net. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  50. ^ "Sediments, soils, and the expansion of farmers in a forager's world". researchgate.net. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  51. ^ "[Book Excerpt) The People". researchgate.net. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  52. ^ "Zimbex expedition". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  53. ^ a b c Maufe, H.B. (1933). "A preliminary report on the mineral springs of Southern Rhodesia". Southern Rhodesia Geological Survey Bulletin. 23.
  54. ^ a b Mitchell, M. "Walkabout in Hwange". African Expedition. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  55. ^ "[Book excerpt] Hwange National Park: The Forest with a Desert Heart (Chapter 5: The Story of the Camps...]". researchgate. Retrieved 9 July 2021.

External linksEdit