The Wankie (Hwange) National Park Beginnings
A story of how Hwange Game reserve begun, taken from “This is our land” by Frank Clements
IT WAS NOT until 1926 that people in Southern Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe) began talking about establishing a game reserve. The idea was first put forward in the Legislative Assembly by Colonel Boggie in 1927. As a result, Native Commissioners were asked to suggest which tract of country would be most suitable, and it was at last decided to set apart an area of some five thousand square miles lying to the west of the railway between Bulawayo and Livingstone and south of the Deka River. It was called the Wankie Game Reserve, and Mr. Ted Davidson was appointed the first Game Warden.
He established his camp near Dett, and pat-rolled the area by lorry under the guidance of a local hunter, Mr. J. G. Lundin. The season had been very dry and the only game to be seen were a few giraffe and ostriches. Never- theless, Ted,Davidson decided to persevere and his first task was obviously to.provide water. The bushmen were his allies, for they had their secret watering points and knew where under-ground water could be found. Ted Davidson spent years wandering around the unmapped interior. There was so little information about the country that when he was asked by his African assistants where he was going, he usually just said “in that direction” so that he was given the name of Dubanyika, which roughly means “through the country.”
Tsetse fly threatened to invade the reserve from the Sebungwe District, and. they could only be driven off by shooting the game be-tween the Reserve and the Gwaal River, and when a fly-free cordon had been established, the park was opened to visitors in 1932. Contemporary accounts report that they were thrilled, although there was little to see, the game population amounting to something between fifty and one hundred beasts only. However, water supplies and protection Increased the game enormously, and by 1949 rest huts and roads had begun to be built. Most important of all, the reserve boundary ha been extended to the Deka River, thanks the generosity of a farmer, the late H. Robins, who bequeathed his 20,000 acrer to the people of Southern Rhodesia to be game sanctuary. Intervening patches of lan were bought and in 1949 the old reserve a the Robins Game Sanctuary were proclaimed a National Park.
As the game increased, additional wate supplies were built up by the sinkiing of boreholes and the construction of dams. The road system by which tourists were able to reach the best game areas was extended and proved, and recently tar roads have made their appearance.
Ted Davidson relinquished his post as Chief Warden in 1960 after 32 years, for 28 year of Which he was ably assisted by his wife Connie, who spent much of her life on horse back with her husband, observing game, tracking poachers, and mapping the country. Ted himself has now donned a white shirt and colla as Assistant Director of National Parks, an when he did so he left behind him a staff which had grown from one European and ten Africans to eight Europeans and one hundred and fifty Africans, working together to preserve the oldest and still the best-known game sanctuary in Southern Rhodesia.