Assisting in the creation of conservation plans to ensure the long term viability of large predator species in Zambezi National Park.
Zimbabwe's 56,200 hectare Zambezi National Park (ZNP) is contiguous with the Kazuma Pan-Matetsi-Hwange complex, forming a total contiguous conservation area of over 1,846,700ha excluding forest reserves.
The National Park is home to five species of large predator including; spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), leopard (Panthera pardus), lion (Panthera leo) and African wild dog (Lycaon pictus).
No previous study has been conducted on predator species within the park, but the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) estimate numbers to be low despite fairly high concentrations of antelope found in the basalt woodlands below the sand ridge, and stretching all the way to the Zambezi River. This habitat should, under normal circumstances, be good hunting ground for predators and support a healthy population of each species.
This study aims to establish baseline data for each of the five large predator species within the ZNP such that species specific studies can be developed to determine their ecology in this location.
The end goal of the study is to assist in the creation of sound conservation management plans to ensure the long term viability for all large predator species within the Zambezi National Park.
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Approximately 40% of the Park has been surveyed to date. Hyena, lion, cheetah and leopard have all been confirmed as present through transect surveys. Whilst no evidence has been found of African Wild Dog, they have been observed elsewhere within the Park, but have yet to observed on transects. Hyena are the dominant predator species whilst few signs of cheetah have been observed. Both hyena and cheetah observations have been made in areas lacking signs of other large predators, whilst lion and leopard signs have been discovered together in several areas.