Chizarira National Park
is known as “The Hidden Gorges”
ALERT Chizarira National Park
The unique combination of high rising escarpments with deeply eroded river valleys and sinking savannah bushlands offers scenery that is unmatched in Zimbabwean landscapes.
The hidden gorges are located on the northwestern areas of Zimbabwe on top of the Zambezi escarpment. The 2000km2 park is Zimbabwe’s fourth-largest national park and one of the most remote parks countrywide. It is a true example of the unspoiled African bush.
The area is home to four of the Big Five wildlife species (lions, leopards, buffalo and elephant) as well as a good mix of mammals (water-buck, duiker, zebra, bushbuck, eland, kudu, reedbuck, warthog, impala, klipspringer, sable) and a variety of smaller carnivores (spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, genet cats, civet cats and African wild cats).
Why is ALERT in Chizarira?
For more than 30 years no in-depth research work has been carried out in the park. This lack of research causes major issues as protected area managers do not know the status, numbers or trends of the wildlife populations in the area.
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 11th January 2017 to carry out various research projects, and research permits were issued to study lion and elephant populations, as well as monitor vegetation changes. Other monitoring projects will soon be underway.
ALERT conducts various research projects in Chizrira some of these include:
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) began lion research in Chizarira in 2017. The research is aimed at understanding the population ecology of lions in the park and surrounds (numbers, population structure, pride dynamics, movements, associations between prides, interactions with other large predators and so on).
It also ties in with the work we are carrying out with neighbouring rural communities where we are working with them on human-wildlife issues including mitigation measures.
Lions are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Whilst many of the large National Parks in Zimbabwe hold healthy populations of lions, no empirical data is available for Chizarira especially on the population dynamics of this species.
The elephant research being carried out in Chizarira and surrounding Protected Areas is looking at obtaining the population characteristics and movements of this iconic animal. All facets of elephant ecology will be looked at including the effect that elephants are having on vegetation.
The elephant is subject to illegal killing for its ivory, and for over 30 years now, no in-depth work has been carried out in Chizarira to find out how the elephant population is faring and what the population structure is. As elephants are large animals capable of moving vast distances, the need to understand their movements and core areas is important.
Rangers deployed in the park and safari areas will be better able to protect the elephant if park management is aware of the local and seasonal movements of the herds so that they can ensure that patrol rangers are in nearby proximity to the herds for protection
Human-wildlife Conflict Mitigation & Conservation Education
The last few decades have seen the increasing human population having to compete with wild animals for land due to settlement and agriculture. The existence of such pressures has led people having to live in close proximity to animals.
Human settlements lie in the park buffer areas and some in known wildlife corridors which results in a number of human-wildlife conflict incidents. To prevent the persecution of animals in such areas, there is a need for awareness and education of people on wildlife and the conservation of habitats for co-existence.
ALERT is targeting the education of young people from the boundary community in ward 4 (Mucheni) through conservation education lessons. The lessons are currently being provided to Sinansengwe Secondary school students. These equip the pupils with a positive mindset towards the conservation of the natural environment, appreciating the benefits of ecosystem services & instilling a culture of innovative thinking related to conservation transcending years imaginable.