Located between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, the Republic of Zimbabwe is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. Not to mention the various seasonal attraction throughout the year, this country is home to exceptionally breathtaking game reserves and national parks including Victoria Falls, which is on the list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
With its stunning landscape dominated by grasslands, the presence of mountains allows for the existence of tropical and hardwood forests where you can find the most iconic wildlife species on the planet. From the largest population of elephants and rhinos, you’ll ever lay your eyes on, as well as an array of gigantic fish and birds. Although there is an ongoing battle due to rampant poaching and loss of habitat of Zimbabwe’s animals. The presence of non-private, independent organizations creates a huge impact in conservating and providing anti-poaching programs in order to experience these majestic creatures in their natural habitat!
The “Big Five” of Zimbabwe
The term is used to describe the five most challenging and dangerous animals to chase and kill during colonial times in Africa. Their unpredictable behavior, when threatened or injured added to the danger of hunting them. The group known as the “Big Five” comprises of the African Elephant, the Cape buffalo, the Leopard, the Lion, and the Rhinoceros.
1. African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
This gentle animal is the biggest land-living mammal. They have a length from trunk to tail that reaches up to 9 meters, a weight of approximately 7 metric tons, and a height of 4 meters. Impressive traits include long front legs, large ears that release heat, a unique trunk, wrinkled skin for moisture retention, and continuously growing tusks in both genders. The animal is an herbivore with a lifespan of considerately 70 years. The greatest threat to elephants is human activities. Poaching and habitat destruction is increasing due to illegal trades of ivory, and the conversion of land for agricultural purposes.
2. Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
Due to their violent nature, they are known to be the most dangerous among the big five. Weighing 600kg to 907kg, and measuring 1.7 to 1.8 meters in length, the animals are known for their distinctive trait of large, shoulder hump, and curved horns. There are different types, with café buffalo being the most common type. Interestingly, they are herbivores and can thrive anywhere with water. To protect against their predators including lions, crocodiles, and hyenas, buffaloes are seen commonly in large herds of 50 to 500 members.
3. Leopard (Panthera Pardus)
Leopards are one of the most attractive wild felines due to their unique and eye-catching fur. It features black rosettes (spots shaped like roses) on a background color that can vary from pale cream or light yellow or buff-gray in warm areas, to orangish, or reddish brown in dense forests. Known to be highly skilled climbers, these animals are regarded as genius nocturnal carnivores that are capable of hoisting prey in large branches for several days, even if it’s twice their weight, in order to protect it from lions and hyenas.
4. African Lion (Panthera Leo)
With their powerful jaws and teeth, the formidable kings of the savannah, reign as the largest land predator in their natural habitats. Females are slightly smaller, with males growing to 10 feet and weighing up to 550 pounds. It has golden coats and a mane that gets darker as they grow old. However, due to resemblance, one cannot tell between a lion and a tiger when devoid of their coats. A group of lions called prides comprise up to 40 members. Female lions hunt prey and raise cubs, while males protect the territory. Their unique socialization includes loud and powerful roars echoing within up to eight kilometers. With strategic precision, lions reach their prey within 100 feet (30 meters) from different angles before launching their calculated attack. Lions’ favorite prey are large animals including zebra and wildebeest.
5. Rhinoceros (White:Ceratotheriumsimum) (Black:Dicerosbicornis)
World Rhino Day is celebrated every year on the 22nd day of September. With its bulk body, it is second to the elephant at 5 feet in height and 8 feet long, with the black type quite larger than the white. These black and white types are not named through their color since all rhinos have gray and brown colored skin, with the white type paler than the black type. Bulls is the term used to refer to males, while calves are for females. They also have thick skin, and poor eyesight but are keen in their sense of smell, and can have one or two horns with the same components that are found on our nails and hair. Its horn is the main reason for poaching due to its wide range of medicinal purposes. Although they are listed as endangered species among the Big Five, the Black type is recognized to be critically endangered among the two, and its celebration in September has the sole purpose of raising awareness of this magnificent animal threat to extinction.
Conservation reserves and organizations
Zimbabwe boasts a number of stunning national parks and protected areas, each with its own unique wildlife populations and landscapes. We’ll take a closer look at some of the groups and organizations that provides conservation of the different wildlife of Zimbabwe.
1. Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority
Since 1975, their objective is to uphold the conservation of Zimbabwe’s valuable wildlife heritage through the implementation of strategies that safeguard and sustainably manage natural resources, with the ultimate goal of benefiting both the current and future generations. They successfully manage to provide anti-poaching patrols. These patrols involve trained rangers patrolling wildlife areas, such as national parks and game reserves, to prevent illegal poaching activities. Rangers monitor and protect endangered species, such as elephants, rhinos, and lions, from poachers who engage in illegal hunting for ivory, bushmeat, and other wildlife products. Anti-poaching patrols play a crucial role in deterring poaching and safeguarding Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage for present and future generations.
2. African Wildlife Foundation (AWF)
AWF is a prominent international conservation organization established in 1961 that works in Zimbabwe and other African countries to protect wildlife, habitats, and natural resources. They engage in various conservation activities, including habitat conservation, community-based conservation, wildlife management, and conservation education to promote sustainable conservation practices.
3. Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation
This is a private conservation reserve founded in 2005 that focuses on the conservation of endangered species, including rhinos, elephants, and other wildlife. They engage in conservation programs, such as anti-poaching patrols, wildlife rehabilitation, and community outreach, to protect and conserve Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage.
The “Big Five” of Zimbabwe, which includes the African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, African Lion, and Rhinoceros, are iconic species that are found in this country. These animals are not only fascinating in their physical attributes and behaviors, but they also face threats such as poaching, habitat destruction, and the illegal trade of ivory. Despite the ongoing challenges, there are several organizations and groups that are dedicated to the conservation of Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage. It is important to recognize the efforts of organizations and groups that are working tirelessly to conserve and protect these species and their habitats.