Zambezi National Park: February 2020

Table of Contents

Zambezi National Park Report on Wildlife Monitoring & Research January – February 2020

This report has been compiled by Miss Angela Ferguson (Conservation Research Manager – ALERT), Tafadzwa Shumba (Elephant Research Officer) and students on attachment with ALERT Wildlife Encounter, Esnath Nhire (Chinhoyi University of Technology) and Natsani Dube (Lupane State University).


Thanks go to all those institutions and individuals that have contributed to the below-mentioned projects. Wildlife Encounter (formerly Lion Encounter) for their financial and logistical support as well as interns and volunteers for their financial contributions and hands-on support during field sessions.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, for permission to conduct research in the park and on-going support of ALERT’s research activities. Special thanks to personnel stationed at Zambezi National Park (ZNP), that is the Area Manager, Resident Ecologist, Wildlife Officers, Senior Rangers and Parks Rangers.

Monitoring Projects

Large Predator Occupancy Survey


Three incidental predator spoor sightings were recorded in January 2020 all in Chamabondo.

Table 1: Incidental predator sightings recorded in January 2020. (Age: A = Adult, SA = Sub-adult, J = Juvenile, Sex: F = Female, M = Male, U = Unknown sex, Collar: Y = Yes, N = No)

Date Time Species Spoor/Visual Total Location Age/Sex Collar Y/N
06/01/2020 15:24 Lion Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1UA U
09/01/2020 15:47 Lion Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1AU U
28/01/2020 12:30 Hyena Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1AU U


Four visual incidental predator sightings were recorded in February 2020 in Zambezi National Park.

Table 2: Incidental Predator sightings made in February 2020. (Sex: F =female, M = male, U = unknown, Collar: Y= Yes there was a collar, N=No there wasn’t a collar, Type: T=Track, S=Sighting).

Date Time Species Spoor/Visual Total Location Age/Sex Collar Y/N
04/02/2020 10:00 Hyena Visual 1 Chamabondo 1UA N
04/02/2020 10:05 Black-backed jackal Visual 1 Chamabondo 1AU N
06/02/2020 16:15 Hyena Visual 3 Chamabondo 3AU N
20/02/2020 16:10 Lion Visual 3 Zambezi 1MA, 2FA N

Biodiversity Assessment (large mammals)


Nine road transect counts were conducted in January 2020, five along Zambezi River drive and four along Chamabondo game drive (Figure 1). The species with the highest number of individuals observed in the Zambezi was Impala with 242 individuals (Table 3) while in Chamabondo buffalo had the highest number of individuals observed with 308 individuals.

Of the 8 species recorded in the Zambezi, hippopotamus (7 individuals) were the least abundant and of the 8 species recorded in Chamabondo, sable (6 individuals) were the least abundant.

Overall, impala had the highest relative abundance (RA = 0.30). The relative diversity for all mammals (Shannon’s Index) in this month was H`= 1.76, higher than in December 2019. The Jaccard similarity index for Chamabondo and Zambezi is 33.3% indicating some level of overlap in the species occurring in both areas.

A Zambezi
Transect 1 Transect 2 Transect 3 Transect 4 Transect 5 Total
Individuals per KM
Elephant 10 0 2 50 0 62 1.21
Giraffe 0 0 8 9 0 17 0.33
Hippo 0 0 0 7 0 7 0.14
Impala 77 18 69 58 20 242 4.72
Kudu 0 0 0 0 8 8 0.16
Warthog 10 10 1 8 9 38 0.74
Waterbuck 2 4 1 3 4 14 0.27
Zebra 0 4 22 4 0 30 0.59
Species richness 8
Distance (Km) 11 10 11 9 10 51
B Chamabondo
Transect 1 Transect 2 Transect 3 Transect 4 Total
# of Individuals per KM
Buffalo 308 0 0 0 308 7.51
Eland 0 21 0 5 26 0.63
Elephant 0 2 10 3 15 0.36
Giraffe 6 10 8 3 27 0.65
Impala 20 16 5 36 77 1.88
Sable 0 0 0 6 6 0.14
Wildebeest 0 8 0 8 16 0.39
Zebra 40 42 35 51 168 4.09
Species richness 8
Distance (Km) 8 20 13 17.8 41

Results for large mammal road transect counts in January 2020.

Zam Nat Park

Locations of mammals recorded during game counts across ZNP in January 2020


No game counts were conducted in February due to several logistical issues as well as rain.

Bird Survey


Two bird surveys were conducted in Zambezi National Park during the month of January 2020. A total of 41 bird species were observed in the 1st bird survey along Zambezi Drive including Reed Cormorant, African jacana and 32 bird species were observed in the 2nd bird survey in Chamabondo including Amur falcon, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Violet-backed starling and White-faced whistling duck.

Two species of special concern, Southern ground hornbills and Kori bustards were recorded in Chamabondo Vlei.

White Faced Whistling Duck

White-faced whistling ducks sighted in Chamabondo


One bird survey was conducted in Zambezi National Park. A total of 29 bird species were observed along Zambezi River Drive which includes Dickson’s kestrel, Green-capped eremomela, Temminck’s courser, Black-backed puff back and Violet-backed starling. Southern ground hornbills and Kori bustards were sighted in Chamabondo and were recorded as they are species of concern.

Temminck's courser sighted along Zambezi drive

Temminck’s courser sighted along Zambezi drive

Incidental bird sightings of species of special concern recorded in January and February 2020.

Date Time Species Number A J
03/01/2020 09:47 Kori Bustard 1
06/01/2020 07:47 Ground Hornbill 1 1
06/01/2020 15:24 Kori Bustard 1 1
09/01/2020 08:08 Ground Hornbill 1 1
09/01/2020 11:55 Ground Hornbill 2 2
16/01/2020 08:56 Kori Bustard 1 1
21/01/2020 09:44 Ground Hornbill 3
28/01/2020 11:33 Ground Hornbill 3 3
31/01/2020 09:28 Ground Hornbill 1 1
31/01/2020 09:31 Kori Bustard 2 2
31/01/2020 09:45 Kori Bustard 1 1
31/01/2020 10:00 Kori Bustard 1 1
06/02/2020 16:00 Kori Bustard 2 1 1
06/02/2020 16:15 Kori Bustard 2 2
06/02/2020 16:15 Ground Hornbill 3 3
13/02/2020 17:00 Kori Bustard 1 1
13/02/2020 11:38 Ground Hornbill 3 3
13/02/2020 09:50 Ground Hornbill 2 2
20/02/2020 10:40 Kori Bustard 1 1
20/02/2020 10:45 Ground Hornbill 2 2

Research Projects

Zambezi Hyena Project

Learn about our Zambezi Hyena Project

This research is now included as a component of ALERT’s Large Predator Occupancy Survey (see the section above). 

Zambezi Giraffe Project

Learn about our Zambezi Giraffe Project


  • Eight giraffe sessions were conducted in January during which 14 sightings were recorded on both Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park (Figure 4a i).
  • 71 individual giraffe sightings were recorded; 14 adult males, 35 adult females, 3 sub-adult males, 5 sub-adult females, 7 juveniles and 7 individuals of unknown age and sex (Figure 4b i).
  • Giraffes were most often observed displaying vigilant behaviour (50% of observations) and at other times feeding (35.7% of observations) or resting (14.3% of observations).
  • Half of the giraffe sightings recorded were in mopane woodlands but they were also observed frequently in mixed woodlands. Very few observations were made in teak and grassland vegetation types giraffes (Figure 4c i).


  • Six giraffe sessions were conducted in February during which 11 sightings were recorded on both Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park (4 a ii).
  • 60 individual giraffe sightings were recorded; 16 adult males, 15 adult females, 6 sub-adult males, 6 sub-adult females, 5 juvenile, 8 adults of unknown sex and 4 sub-adults of unknown sex (Figure 4b ii).
  • Giraffes were most often observed feeding (54.5% of observations) and at other times vigilant (45.5% of observations).
  • Most of the giraffe sightings recorded were in mixed woodlands (73% of all sightings). The other sightings were made in riverine, mopane and grassland vegetation types (Figure 4c ii).
Research Images

Zambezi Elephant Project

Learn more about the Zambezi Elephant Project

The Zambezi National park ALERT elephant project, has four distinct broad thematic components, namely population demography, GPS collaring and monitoring, elephant impacts on vegetation, and human-elephant conflict (HEC).

Population Demography

The objectives are to understand the population size and structure i.e. how are the different sexes and age classes are represented in the population, through road transects and opportunistic sightings. Between January to February, 15 field sessions were conducted, from which a total 72 individuals were recorded in ZNP across both the Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park.

However poor visibility presented a challenge determining the age and sex of individuals observed.

Elephant Research

Demography of observed individual elephants in ZNP from January to February.

GPS Collaring & Monitoring

The main objectives of this component of the project are to understand home range dynamics during the wet and dry season, habitat use and selection. The three collared cows are monitored remotely on a daily basis and regularly tracked in the park using telemetry to gather data on habitat use, behaviour and herd composition. Two more individuals will be collared later during the year. Preliminary GIS analysis is ongoing to begin to determine the size and location of home ranges for each of the collared individuals.

  • The three collared herds continue to predominantly use the national park (Figure 6) with only SA19 and SA20 occasionally going outside. Both SA 19 and SA 20 have been physically located during field sessions this year.
  • SA 20 was last seen on 16/01/2020 with a herd comprising of a total of 28 individuals (13 adults, 4 sub-adults, 3 juveniles, and 8 calves). This herd uses both the Zambezi and the Chamabondo portions of the park equally.
  • SA19 was last seen on 23/01/2020 but only some of the individuals in the herd were visible. The herd has been using much of the area west of Chamabondo, Matetsi safari area, Pandamasuie forest, as well as woodlands rural communities.
  • SA21 has not been physically seen given that the VHF component on the collar is dysfunctional, making tracks in the field difficult, especially in the existing low visibility conditions. However, as shown in Figure 6 the herd predominantly uses the Zambezi side of the park and occasionally overlaps with SA20s herd movements.
Elephant GPS Research

The movement of collared cows in Zambezi National park using GPS data. Note this represents the cumulative data from the time of collaring (November 2019) to date (February 2020).

Human-Elephant Conflict in ZNP & Matetsi Communal Area

Community HEC:

Work has started to carry out questionnaire surveys in Kasivi and Breakfast villages in the Matetsi Communal Area. The questionnaire aims improve our understanding of the magnitude and extent of HEC, perceptions of villagers towards elephants and the different social-ecological factors associated with their perceptions, as well as predict HEC conflict hot spots to guide our mitigation efforts.

Preliminary discussions with the community members indicate a higher level of tolerance of elephants among the social elites and those deriving reasonable benefits from hunting and ecotourism. However, no conclusions can be drawn until the surveys have been completed.


Plastic pollution in dung: removal exercise

Background: Plastic pollution poses a threat to both marine and terrestrial wildlife. The problem in Victoria Falls town is two-fold improper waste management in the urban areas and no barrier to wildlife coming from the national park to access that waste. Illegal dumping of waste on the edges of the residential areas near to the national park and overflowing dumpsite are attractive to wildlife.

Given that the Zambezi National Park is unfenced, animals are able to access Victoria Falls town without too much trouble. Elephants, baboons and hyenas are common visitors to the town, and are often seen rummaging through the rubbish bins in the town centre, feeding on rubbish at the dumpsite or near the edges of the residential areas.

Piles of elephant dung filled with unnatural waste excreted by elephants are a common sight outside as well as inside the national park. Furthermore, there are known cases of elephant mortality due to the ingestion of non-biodegradable waste in the Victoria Falls area.

Therefore, there is a pressing need to address the issue in the short and long-term to protect wildlife.

Clean-up exercise: After finding a particularly “littered” section inside the Zambezi National Park ALERT staff and volunteers teamed up with ZimParks staff on Friday 24 January 2020 for a clean- up exercise:

  • 11.4 km of roads near the air-strip was cleared

  • 202 contaminated elephant dung piles were removed

  • an average of 17 contaminated dung piles per km was recorded and cleared

  • contents included plastic bags, broken glass, bottle tops, baby diapers, clothing, earbuds, coffee sachets, hair extensions, toiletry bottles, wire, wet wipes, chip packets, condoms, vegetable sacs and mealie meal bags

Clean Up Victoria Falls

Eastern portion of Zambezi National Park. Red lines indicate the 2 sections of road (each 5.7km long) along which a total of 202 piles of elephant dung contaminated with non- biodegradable waste were removed.

Plastic waste in elephant dung removed from the Zambezi National Park

Further recommendations: Through our research and conservation action, we hope to draw urgent attention to the problems of improper waste management and associated threats of plastic pollution to wildlife. We will be presenting our findings at the next monthly Waste Management Meeting hosted by Greenline Africa.

We urge ZimParks to engage with other government departments (VFM and Town Council) and other stakeholders who have the authority and capacity to implement reforms to address the issues of improper waste management in the area to mitigate against the negative effects on the national park and its wildlife.

Wildlife Mortality Kazungula Road

On Thursday 20th February 2020, the ALERT research team recorded a dead juvenile spotted hyena on the Kazungula road. The individual had been partly skinned and had its face removed, presumably for “muti” purposes. ALERT participated in an exercise to put up speed limit signs along the road in October 2019, as a first step to address the problem.

However, this observation re-emphasises that the Kazungula Road is a high-risk zone for wildlife and further action is urgently required to reduce the high wildlife mortality rates in this important protected area.

Dead spotted hyena found mutilated on the Kazungula Road.

Park entries

Volunteer entry fees paid for access into ZNP:

Month PAX Foreign
Total foreign (rate $15 per 1PAX)
January 44 660
February TBC TBC

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