Vivian Wilson and Chris Pfefferkorn
Director, Chipangali Wildlife Trust and General Curator, Oregon Zoo
Location: Hwange National Park and Matobo Hills National Park, Zimbabwe
Research: Matabeleland Cheetah and Leopard Research Program
Species/Topic: Cheetah, Leopard and Brown Hyena
Abstract: Increased human population and activity on the land in Zimbabwe has created heavy pressure on many species of large mammals and on the large carnivores in particular. The "fast track" land distribution program implemented by the Zimbabwean government in 2001 has affected not only the distribution and status of most of the large carnivores, but also their food and feeding habits, prey selection, home ranges and behavior. This project is undertaken to study leopards (Panthera pardus) and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and brown hyena (Hyena brunnea) in order to determine and understand their ecology, status, movement, prey selection, home range and behavior. It is essential to know something of the home range and movement of the leopard and cheetah on commercial, communal and state land in Matabeleland. Due to livestock predation and increased human activity many leopards and cheetah are being hunted with dogs, snared, shot or run off of commercial farms. If leopards and cheetah occur in National Parks and Reserves in saturation levels, then the Parks and Reserves may well be considered as a reservoir to restock the surrounding land. Conversely, if the Parks and Reserves can sustain the introduction of more leopards and cheetah then the Parks and Reserves can become a sanctuary for leopards and cheetah that are displaced in other parts of Zimbabwe. The opportunistic capture of the endangered brown hyena gives the research unit the opportunity to study the ecology of this never before seen carnivore in the Matopo National Park.