The Carnivore Research Project
The Carnivore Project was initiated in 2020, at the request of Zimbabwe National Parks. This project includes the collaring of lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas in Mana Pools National Park. Among other objectives, we will be tracking predator impact on the population of painted dogs.
- accurately count numbers of carnivores
- determine the spatial distribution of each group of predators
- determine the level of interspecies competition
- formulate management plans for increasing populations of species, such as painted dogs and cheetahs
- management of human wildlife conflict
Our conservation and community activities are accomplished at the direct request of Zimparks. Zimbabwe has for many years become increasingly reliant on external funds for wildlife management and conservation activities in National Parks. This is due to a weak economy, high inflation, unstable currency and a lack of government funds. National Parks are funded only by tourism dollars.
African lions are currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.1
In the Lower Zambezi Valley during 2019, lions were successful due to the impact of the drought on prey animals, who were left susceptible to weakness and death, resulting in an ample food source for lions.
The African leopard is also listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN. It is threatened by humans, and in many areas of Africa, its territory is shrinking due to human encroachment. In 2020, we are seeing episodes of human wildlife conflict, with leopards extending their territory into a local village outside of the border of Mana Pools National Park. (We are working diligently at the request of Zimparks, to trap, collar and relocate these animals.)
Leopards are solitary animals with a large territory that overlaps with their predator neighbours.2 Cubs live with their mothers for about two years, until they learn how to hunt.
Leopards are the best climbers of the large cats and spend a lot of time in trees where they eat their prey as their kills are often stolen by lions and hyenas.
Spotted hyenas are highly social animals, typically living in clans of 6 or more members.3 Their primary threat is humans. Females are at the top of the clan hierarchy. They are larger, more aggressive, and have large genitals (a pseudopenis a single urogenital canal used to urinate, have sex and deliver cubs).
Hyenas are effective predators as well as scavengers. Although structured in clans, can also be seen alone. They can send a longdistance call, called a whoop, that brings other hyenas to the rescue.
The South African Cheetah, along with the African leopard and African lion, is also listed as “vulnerable” by the ICUN.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal – up to 55 mph at short distances. They are amazing animals, with an average life expectancy from 10 to 12 years. (Males generally have a shorter life expectancy.) The size of litters is from 2 to 6 cubs.
Unlike leopards and lions who usually hunt their prey at night, cheetahs are daytime hunters. Cheetahs cannot climb trees, they don’t roar, and they only need to drink every few days.
As with our previous collaborations, results of this threeyear project will demonstrate valuable conservation management and practice initiatives relevant for Mana Pools, Zimparks, and the surrounding areas. The knowledge and insights gained will benefit the short and longterm survivability of wildlife and preservation of the environment in the Lower Zambezi Valley. The local communities will be further supported through the financial resources and employment which this project will generate.