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Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Lion vs elephant. Desert vs water. These are two significant battles played out in what is one of southern Africa’s greatest protected areas. Spread across 14,651 square kilometres of Kalahari sand, savannah and thickly wooded bushland, Zimbabwe’s largest national park is home to more mammal species (108 at last count) than any other park in the world. At the eastern end of a migratory route linked to Botswana’s Chobe National Park, the park also receives tens of thousands of elephants during the dry season. As the desert heat wins its war with natural water levels, herds of all varieties congregate around the long-established artificial pans. The wildlife viewing at these times can be astounding. Although 19 species of large herbivore are present here, including Africa’s ‘big five’ antelope (eland, roan, sable, greater kudu and gemsbok), the sheer number of elephants make them the most abundant of these in the area. And this has made them a target for the park’s prides of lions. The big cats have adapted to the situation and acquired the skills to take down not just newborns but also males up to the age of thirteen. Incredibly, elephants make up a significant proportion of their diet, even more so in particularly dry years.
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