On a recent trip to Hwange National Park with Wilderness Safaris, we were privileged enough to meet Arnold Tshipa, a fascinating man with a big personality, great sense of humour and most importantly a palpable passion for the elephants of Zimbabwe.

Arnold Tshipa, resident ecologist and passionate elephant migration researcher in Hwange

Arnold joined us for dinner at Davison’s Camp and it was fascinating learning about how it was his father who instilled in Arnold a love for wildlife and inspired him to become an ecologist and how he obtained his degrees in Forest Resource and Wildlife Management. He is currently doing his Masters.

Arnold studies the movement of elephants between Zimbabwe and Botswana. He says that studying their movement and their habitat use helps us to better understand and predict their dynamics particularly in high-density populations such as Hwange. This adds information to the management plan for Hwange National Park.

A breeding herd of migrating elephants

Over the past few years Arnold has collared a number of elephants fitting them with GPS-tracking data. He is constantly in the field monitoring the behaviour of herds at waterholes, watching for dominance status. He uses census data to determine the elephant densities and demographics.

Elephants in front of Davison’s Camp in Hwange National Park

So far his findings have been that some elephants migrate and some don’t; that they travel further during dry season and that their dry and wet season movement range is linked to the water which is solar pumped to pans across Hwange.

Wilderness Safaris are dedicated supporters of the vital research that Arnold and other local conservationists are doing in these remote wildlife regions.  Meeting and having questions and answers sessions with people on the ground in Africa like Arnold creates awareness and educates conservation conscious guests while they are on safari. After having just been on a game drive and seen plenty of elephants, and then sitting around the camp fire makes the wildlife issues that Arnold describes come to life and therefore far more impactful.

Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is the ideal destination for elephant lovers as it is home to one of the highest densities left on the planet for this crucial keystone species.

Davison’s Camp which overlooks an extremely productive waterhole that attracts a variety of plains game and predators. it is a private concession within the Hwange National Park and activities include game drives and walks.  On the early morning walk we tracked a small breeding herd of ellies and came across very fresh leopard spoor.

Beneath the ancient false mopane trees of Davison’s, nine bright and airy tents (including a family unit) span either side of the expansive main area complete with fire pit, raised viewing deck and separate pool area.

Wilderness Safaris are committed to the maintainance and pumping of 14 of Hwange’s boreholes in the concession to sustain its wildlife, especially in winter when water sources become scarce.

The camp fire at Davison’s. The perfect place to contemplate the universe and the future of Africa’s elephants