2019 will mark the 50th year that the Hwange Game Count is conducted – a fantastic achievement fuelled by dedicated volunteers and conservation groups. The Hwange Game Count is organised primarily by WEZ – Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) – a private voluntary organisation, founded in 1927. In addition the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Wilderness Safaris, the Water for Hwange Project and the Friends of Hwange Trust contribute to the success of the game count.
Who does the counting?
The game count is held in October of each year, to coincide with the full moon, and runs for 24 hours – from midday to midday. In order to help with the game count, volunteers have to apply for a spot – many volunteers come from overseas, as well as Zimbabwe. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be allocated into teams of two or four and given a waterhole or pan to count the animals on. This is actually what makes it such a wonderful experience for many of the volunteers – the opportunity to stay overnight in the middle of the Hwange National Park by a waterhole. So many volunteers enjoy the experience so much that it becomes a regular event in their calendars
What do you count?
At each waterhole, the counter must take note of every single animal and every single species that comes to the waterhole, and the direction from which then entered the waterhole area, and the direction from which they exited. This is to help to reduce double counting. For instance, if 11 elephants were counted at Pan A, and left at 12.31pm in a northernly direction and then a herd of 11 elephants arrived at Pan B at 1pm from a southern direction, the algorithm deduces that it is the same herd.
Where do you count?
Although there are over 250 pans and waterholes across Hwange, for the game count only the waterholes in the northern part of the park are included, and the majority of these are the pans that are pumped. As the count is during the dry season, most of the pans in the southern part of the park have dried up. Some lucky volunteers come to The Hide, and enjoy a view from the main A-frame lodge and do the counting of our waterhole from there.
Out of a possible 111 mammal species, 44 were recorded in 2018 as well as 212 bird species. An enormous 39,317 individual mammals were recorded which must’ve kept all the volunteers very busy for those 24 hours! Some highlights from the 2018 game count were seeing 38 wild dogs, an aardwolf and 6 leopard. Unfortunately the giraffe count in 2018 showed a nearly 40% decline over the last 15 years. At the Hide this year we’ve been fortunate to see more giraffe and cheetah than we normally do, so we are eager to see the numbers for the year to see if their numbers have increased. The full report for 2018 can be downloaded here.