We at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange National Park, are fortunate enough to be frequently visited by the Presidential Herd, who visit our lodge to drink from the pool and impress our guests during their afternoon sundowners or dusk boma dinners. In fact, the near daily appearance of this unique herd was one of the inspirations of our lodge name. As these elephants play such a crucial role in making our lodge experience unique, we thought we would divulge a little more information on this one of a kind elephant herd.
What is the Presidential Herd?
Over 500 wild African elephants in 17 extended family groups make up the “Presidential Herd” in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe named the herd after he awarded it a presidential decree in 1990. The decree is intended to protect these animals from culling and trophy hunting. Zimbabwe boasts some of the biggest elephant herds in Africa. And Hwange, in western Zimbabwe, is home to the largest elephant herds who roam freely on the land in and around Hwange National Park. Imagine the sight: large groups of elephants walking softly through the bush with their babies and matriarchs.
What is the difference between general and presidential elephants?
The Presidential Elephants’ original home is the Hwange Estate, which 35 000 acres of unfenced land bordering part of Hwange National Park. But as the concessions around Hwange National Park are unfenced, elephants do roam freely between Hwange National Park (where some 30,000 elephants are thought to reside) and the adjoining areas, including the Hwange Estate. Therefore, not all elephants seen are Presidential Elephants. Every day there are ‘general’ park elephants in these outside areas that are passing through. An expert guide is needed to distinguish between them.
Is the Presidential Herd under threat?
Sharon Pincott was working with and protecting the Presidential Herd for 13 years. In 2015, she left Zimbabwe claiming that the Hwange Estate had been taken over by a land claimant, as part of Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme. She says, that the claimant has damaged conservation efforts and tourist activity and has ties to the sport hunting industry. Whether or not this is true, the elephants are left to be more vulnerable than before. It’s important to recognise that elephant herds in and around Hwange National Park face threats of land claims, poaching, sport-hunting, and snaring.
How can you support the Presidential Herd?
It’s important that tourists visit Hwange – and keep returning – as it helps to keep these special elephants, and their land safe and secure. Book yourself a game-drive on a registered game-drive vehicle with a lodge with guides who have expert knowledge of this special herd as well as other elephants in the park and its surrounding concessions.