via Rhodes – Inyanga national park game count – The Zimbabwean 05/02/2016
This was held by invitation of the Area Warden Onias Bebe. Teams met at Rhodes Hotel at 12.00 pm for a briefing to explain the methodology to be used.
There were 42 participants deployed into the 47,000 Hectare Park. Most of the Park is densely forested with invasive pines and wattle. These areas were not surveyed.
The Park was divided into 9 Sectors from 2,000 to 4,000 hectares in extent, comprising 27,633 hectares. Each team was to drive, walk and survey with binoculars from strategic points, counting all mammals within their area. Birds were also to be recorded; in particular, Blue Swallows and their nesting sites. Recording sheets would detail times where each animal or group of animals was seen and a corresponding number referring to the group was recorded on a map of their area.
The meeting was concluded at 2.00pm and many of the participants remained for lunch. The Hotel provided a brilliant finger/snack lunch.
Many of the participants returned to private or Parks accommodation in and around Inyanga.
Counters, woke up to a beautiful clear day with some frost in areas of Connemara, Rhodes Hotel and the Kwaraguza cottages. Conditions were perfect for participants, with clear skies overhead and short green grass throughout most of the areas, where fierce fires had burnt only a few weeks before . In spite of 270 kilometres of fire breaks in place this year, fires were fanned by strong winds and dense bush.
The count began at 5.30 am but in hindsight we should have started at first light which was closer to 4.45/5.00am. Teams were supported by National Parks Rangers who were able to share much of their knowledge with members. They were able to direct teams to secluded parts of the park one would not normally frequent. For some of us, this was a first time in the Park and the beauty and phenomenal scenery was absolutely awesome. Standing at the top of a fortressed mountain, looking down at the source of the rivers flowing North, South and East, as they leave Zimbabwe, one was able to capture the imagination of the ancients who worked this land. With much of the park burnt out, visibility was clear for miles.
The Udu Dam group were booked in at the lodges there and found it difficult to leave their base as they found enough game to count to keep them occupied for a substantial part of the morning. An Osprey provided much entertainment demonstrating it’s fishing skills.
Much of the game that was counted was in the Northern and central part of the Park, whilst the Southern sectors consisting of the Mid and Lower Pungwe, yielded very little.
Some team members did find time for a swim while the older members preferred reclining on banks of rivers and dams over a relaxing lunch break. Birders found many new species for their lists and good reports of Blue Swallows were noted.
In spite of some bad fires in the area, the Park is in excellent condition. All in all this was a wonderful worthwhile week-end. Special note was the lack of Sable sightings, but fresh droppings and tracks had been identified by one group.
The following day 38 members met up at Rhodes Hotel for a debrief which was designed to analyze any shortcomings. Each Team representative was asked to give a short report on the previous day’s proceedings and come up with suggestions on how the count could be developed.
It was generally decided that some minor changes could be made to the sector boundaries, and hopefully we could expand the area to be covered next year, by including more volunteers
RHODES/INYANGA GAME COUNT 7th NOVEMBER 2015