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As we near the end of July, we are well and truly into the dry season in Hwange National Park. Although we had a good rainy season, surface water in the South of the park dried up quickly, and the big game returned to the North of the park early this year. As a result there has been heavy demand on waterholes and pans in the Park since April, necessitating pumping of water from then.
For those who have never visited Hwange in the dry season, or have not witnessed the desperation of animals during a drought, let me try to describe the scene at a waterhole that contains inadequate water. Highest up in the chain of animals are the elephants (of which Hwange has an estimated 20 thousand) which due to their size are able to dominate all available water at a pan and prevent any other animals from drinking. Elephants will stay around a pan that has water until their thirst is assuaged. If the pan has been totally depleted, and all that is available is the water coming out of the pipe supplying the pan, an elephant will stand with the end of his trunk over the pipe, and suck up every drop that comes out of the ground. As one animal takes his trunk away from the pipe to pour what he has collected down his throat, another will immediately take his place and there are all the while multiple trunks searching and feeling for each drop that might escape.
Since a big bull elephant requires about 200 litres of water a day, the chaos reigning when multiple herds come in to a pan to drink is hard to describe, the scene is hugely upsetting to witness. It is bad enough to watch animals pushing and shoving, trampling on and screaming at one another around the water pipe, but worse still is when there is no water at all, when the drone of the Lister engine fades away, and hundreds of animals of all species stand patiently waiting for the engine to start up and if it doesn't, simply lie down and die where they stand. It is absolutely tragic to witness a large herd of buffalo walk in from many miles away to an empty pan. Desperately thirsty, their only option is to rest for a while, then unrewarded, trudge on to the next pan, a long distance away, in the faint hope of finding water. One of the most heart rending sights during the drought in 2005 was to watch the scene when an engine that had been silent for a time was re-supplied with fuel and was started up. Animals of all sizes and species started pouring out of the surrounding bush knowing that the key to their survival lay in the noise of that engine.
At times when there is enough water available in the pans, there are none of these problems.
Thus we, the trustees of FOH are determined that no matter what the odds, we cannot let these animals down. We will do whatever we can to keep them going until the onset of the rains in November.
Due to the world recession, and the inability of our major donors from previous years being able to support us, we have had difficulty finding the necessary resources to keep pumping water to the pans. We have found ourselves appealing to anyone and everyone to support our cause by donating whatever they feel they can. However, if we are to avert a major disaster this year, and avoid the deaths of thousands of animals, there is still great need for adequate funds to see us through the next four months.
Our major requirement is for diesel to run the Lister engines which are responsible for driving the mono pumps that supply water to the pans.
Each engine uses about 500 litres of diesel a month, and one litre of diesel costs about USD 1. We try to supply water to 10 pans spread through the Northern section of Hwange, this gives an idea of our requirements. USD 20 will keep one pump running for 24 hours. Our five windmills do a wonderful job, and we are exploring ways to go more "green" and install more eco friendly systems, but at present these simply cannot keep up with the demand for water during the height of the dry season, and we are forced to use Lister engines.
To this end, we are appealing for any donations at all to help us. Dave Dell has put together a photographic CD of Zimbabwe, photos of wildlife, birds and scenic Zim which he is selling for USD 20. Proceeds from the sale of the CD will go towards funds for FOH. The feedback we have had from people who have bought the CD so far has been tremendously positive and uplifting. Contact him on the above email address for details if you would like a CD.
Since the withdrawal of the Zimbabwean local currency, and it's subsequent replacement with South African Rand and US dollars, problems associated with receiving monies into Zim have disappeared. We have thus set up a local bank account and are now able to accept donations directly into Zim. Details are as follows:
Friends of Hwange Trust
There are many people in Zimbabwe and abroad too numerous to mention
individually, who have supported our cause, and we extend to them our
heartfelt appreciation. The following people and organisations deserve
special mention for their contribution in recent months:
Our web address has changed in recent weeks, and is now www.friendsofhwange.org. Our thanks to YoAfrica in Zimbabwe for hosting the site free of charge. We will post any interesting developments as and when appropriate.
Finally, may we extend appreciation for reading our newsletter, and for your interest in our cause.
Trustees: G.R. Brown; A.J. Preston; P. Turner; D.C. Dell; B. Edwards; B.
Wolhuter; Founder: R.A. Franklin