We appreciate it as much as anyone that free and wild living animals in a natural environment are far more suitable for research purposes than captive ones, but there are many aspects of research that cannot be done in the wild.
For instance, behaviour is an important study that can be carried out on captive animals, and although captivity is unnatural, there are many aspects of behaviour that are instinctive or inherited. Reproduction behaviour, for example, cannot easily be established in the wild, especially with nocturnal carnivores, and gestation periods would be almost impossible to establish in a National Park or Game Reserve.
Periods of lactation, the composition of milk, and changes in its composition over the period of lactation, can never be established in the wild. Tooth development and replacement in individual and selected animals are other studies that can be undertaken on captive animals and there are many species with unusual characteristics that can only be studied in captivity.
It should be borne in mind that conservation of endangered species is inseparable from scientific research and if a species is already rare in the wild then studies will have to be conducted with captive animals. The information thus obtained can then be applied when dealing with the wild populations.
Due to the ever increasing demand on land because of human over-population, more and more wildlife are being restricted to pockets of land which are the National Parks and Protected areas. Wildlife utilisation is becoming a booming industry on private ranches, but many of the endangered predator species such as brown hyaena and cheetah are destroyed by landowners who do not want their livestock threatened by the large predators
In order to try and conserve these animals from extinction, captive breeding programmes are becoming more and more important. Chipangali is now in the forefront of just such programmes, where cheetah, brown hyaena, rhino, etc, are being studied.
For more than 20 years the research staff have studied the duikers of sub-Saharan Africa during which time more than 25 African countries have been visited where detailed duiker and other wildlife surveys have been carried out. Some of the countries which were visited on more than one occasion include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and all of the east African countries.
On completion of the field work a very large volume of over 800 pages was written covering the 16 species of duikers by the Chipangali Wildlife Trust. This book was released in 2002 and all the profits from the sale of the book are being used to carry out surveys on leopard, cheetah and other carnivores in Zimbabwe.
In addition, a detailed study of the ecology and behaviour of the leopard and a biodiversity survey of the Matobo National Park are also being undertaken at the time of writing. The movements and home range of radio-collared leopards, cheetah and brown hyaena are also being studied in several different habitats in Matabeleland.
A recently established "Carnivore Research Unit" is investigating the distribution, status, ecology and biology of all the Carnivores of Zimbabwe.
If you wish to visit the Chipangali Research Website: www.chipangaliresearch.org.zw
Bayete - Black Rhino
George - Blue Duiker
Macheka - Hyena
Roslyn - Leopard