Hwange National Park falls into the semi arid climate region of Zimbabwe receiving less than 650mm per year on average, with most rain falling from November to February and almost nothing in the winter months of May to September. With temperatures reaching 40 degrees C and being above 30 degrees C for most of the dry season, combined with Kalahari sands, the pans and water holes don’t hold the rainfall for long.
Before the area was declared a National Park, in the drier months the animals would migrate to neighboring countries, leaving the area devoid of all but the most hardy of creatures. During the rainy season, this area was the hunting area of the great Matabele king, Mzilikazi, as it was unsuitable for any agriculture due to its lack of water and poor soils. But since it became a National Park in 1930, something had to be done to provide water for the animals in the area and so pumping of water into the water holes started. The first game warden for the area, Ted Davison, retells the many challenges and problems he had to overcome when he began implementing this scheme in his book entitled “Wankie, The Story of a Great Game Reserve”. He recounts his achievements and struggles to create this magnificent park, with tales of his long journeys across the unexplored wilderness with his wife, some helpers, two horses and a donkey, to try and find water in the driest times of the year. Once the areas where water was present all year round, albeit very many meters under the surface, were found, construction and insertion of Lister engines to pump the water to the surface were slowly installed.
These worked well, but proved expensive to maintain and fuel, but with the recent technological developments, the Lister engines are slowly being replaced by solar powered pumps. One of organizations responsible for this is The Friends of Hwange Trust, who raise funds to erect and maintain these life giving structures. They began with 10 key pumps in the northern area of the park, but today are responsible for all the pumps in and around Main Camp. The water demand is huge, if one adult elephant needs about 100L of water a day to survive and there are on average 30,000 elephants in the park at any one time, just the elephants need about 3 million litres of water a day, that isn’t counting the other animals. So they are tirelessly trying to find eco-friendly and effective ways to provide the animals of Hwange National Park with life giving water during the harsh dry seasons.