Monday, August 31, 2020

Animals of Zimbabwe

Despite the decline in certain wildlife populations in recent decades, Zimbabwe is still one of the must-go places for safari goers, with some of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest and favourite national parks. Notable parks include Hwange, Mana Pools, Gonarezhou, as well as special intensive protected areas like Matusadona and Matobo Hills National Parks. Of-course Zimbabwe is home to quite a few more, national parks, and shares borders with countries that also have impressive wildlife populations.

Elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Animals at a waterhole in Hwange National Park
Over its diverse landscapes, Zimbabwe animals vary in type and size, and some are even found only in certain locations. Zimbabwe is home to Africa's "Big Five" game. This term was coined by big game hunters, meaning five of the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. Of-course today, these are some of the most rewarding to see on safari, although there are lots of other species that are a sight to behold.

Buffalo and hippo at Lake Kariba
Buffalo and hippo along the Lake Kariba shore
On the Big Five list is the elephant, for its obvious size, but also because they are good at hiding and are the most likely to charge. The rhino is on the list for it’s very thick skin, and black rhino hold the reputation of being more aggressive than the white rhino. The most unpredictable in the list though is the buffalo, and they will fiercely defend themselves and each other in a herd. The lion, the largest wild cat in Africa, makes the list for its size, and having very powerful jaws and sharp claws. They can also be stealthy, camouflaging behind tall dry grass. The other big cat is even more elusive, shy and cunning. The leopard is nocturnal and very difficult to find on foot.

Leopard seen on a safari
The illusive Leopard
Other animals that don’t make the list but have impressive qualities include another big cat – the cheetah. The fastest cat in Africa is also found in Zimbabwe. So is the tallest on the continent – the giraffe. The hippopotamus unfortunately has the reputation of killing the most people, even more than the ancient crocodile, both of which you will most likely see on a cruise on the Zambezi River.
The most misunderstood, and often underrated is the hyena, a highly skilled hunter and very sociable mammal. Africa’s largest indigenous canine is the African Wild Dog or Painted Wolf, and is among some of the continent’s endangered species for various reasons.

African Wild dog at a waterhole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
African Wild Dog
There are so many plains game that top the favourites lists: The zebra with its unforgettable stripes and typical large herds, almost always seen on game drives; Kudu with its impressive spiral horns; Another common sighting on a game drive, and sometimes on a Zambezi river cruise is the impala; Oryx or gemsbok are also found in Zimbabwe, with their striking patches and white "socks"; Both roan and sable antelope can be found in Zimbabwe. The sable is the country’s national animal.

Zebra and foul in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zebra in Hwange
Other than the popular ones, Zimbabwe is also home to some unique and peculiar species. The warthog and meerkat were made more popular by Disney's The Lion King. Primates such as monkeys and baboons. Two ant-eating species also found in Zimbabwe but very secretive are the aardvark and the pangolin – the most poached animal in the world mostly for its scales.

Warthog in Zambezi National Park near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Warthog in Zambezi National Park
Smaller, less mentioned species include the honey badger, a few mongoose species, serval, porcupine, species of jackal, fox, genet, Southern African hedgehog, tree squirrel, bush hyrax, civet and so much more.

These are just a few of the animals found in Zimbabwe. For a chance to observe much of these in their natural habitat, a safari in some of the national parks in Zimbabwe will be perfect. A few days combining Victoria Falls area, with Hwange, and/or Mana Pools and Matusadona, will make for an unforgettable time not only for game viewing, but scenic and birding as well. For the perfect time of year for your safari, contact Victoria Falls Guide for expert advice by avid safari lovers and assistance for your travel needs.

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