Nestled by the shores of Lake Kariba and two perennial rivers, the Ume and Sanyati, Matusadonha’s water rich landscape is a haven for a vast number of plant and animal species. The undulating landscape is formed by the 700m high Matusadonha hills in the south, from which the park takes its name, comprised of plateaus and deep valleys that allow for a diversity of plant species. Open woodlands on the flat plateau are predominantly composed of Julbernadia globiflora species and the mountain acacia, Brachystegia glaucescens, is common along the slopes and ridges of the escarpment. The hills fall abruptly to a flat, low-lying area in the north that forms a nutrient rich floodplain on the shores of the lake. Mopane scrub, woodland and grassland clash to form a kaleidoscope of vegetation types in an area that is still theoretically in an ecological flux. The shoreline of the lake is subjected to irregular and unpredictable variations in water level caused by fluctuations in rainfall and the recent installation of two new hydroelectric power plants on the Zambian side of the lake.
Along the northern boundary of the park, drowned forests stand resolutely in the fluctuating waters of the lake, forming a protective barrier of up to one kilometre wide. The assortment of habitats provides Matusadonha with one of its most compelling features, its diversity of birdlife, with over 240 species being recorded in the park. The African fish eagle is common along the lake shore where it makes use of the drowned forests for nesting. Other bird species that revel in what Matusadonha has to offer are grey herons, goliath herons, saddled billed-storks, osprey, woolly-necked storks, red-winged pratincoles and species of cormorants and darters.
The astounding variety of birds is not the only aspect that makes Matusadonha so special. Although the park contains a limited diversity of large mammal species, its history speaks of its future potential. At one point the park supported the highest density of lion in Africa, and formed an incredible stronghold for elephant and black rhino. Today the park is only a shadow of what it once was due to poor management and rampant poaching, but it still contains over 500 elephants, a relic population of black rhino, lion, buffalo and typical lake shore species of hippo, waterbuck, impala and buffalo. The restoration of Matusadonha’s wildlife populations is a management priority and it is our intention to reinstate the park as Zimbabwe’s premier elephant and black rhino sanctuary.
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