Gonarezhou Predator Project

Preserving nature's balance


Ecosystems that lose their apex predators and/or keystone species often witness detrimental impacts within all trophic levels and consequently become dysfunctional. —Estes J, Crooks K, Holt R (2001)

The Gonarezhou Predator Project was established in 2009 acknowledging the need for information on the status of the park’s large carnivore populations. The project is a joint initiative with the African Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The project monitor trends in the population numbers of the Park’s large carnivores, and aims to also identify and mitigate threats.  It is a multi-faceted project, including direct monitoring of certain species, collation of tourist data and ranger sightings and periodic comprehensive park-wide call-up surveys.

 The African wild dog population is monitored specifically closely, with an attempt made to locate and monitor all den sites annually during the denning season. Over the last 10 years the population has shown exponential growth, and at the end of 2017 we recorded 107 adults/yearlings and 70 pups (across 10 resident packs), which included a single sex group of three females.  To date in 2018 a total of 8 den sites have been recorded, and it is suspected that there are an additional 4 packs for which den sites were not located.

The 2017 predator spoor survey estimated a population of 63 lions in the whole of the Park, which is a slight increase from the 2016 estimate of 54 lions.  This number  equates to a density of 1.3 lions/100 sq km which is relatively low compared to other populations in the region.  However, it needs to be kept in mind that unlike most of the other large comparable conservation areas, Gonarezhou has deliberately few artificial water sources, which will impact on both prey and predator population densities.  Survey methodology is also not ideal, as the survey can not be extended north of the Runde to the hard and rocky substrate of the roads in this area.  Anecdotal evidence does seem to suggest that the lion population is on the increase, and tourist sightings of all large predators are beginning to become more common – a likely effect of both a recovery in populations as well as the habituation that is occuring as more tourists visit the area.