Zimbabwe Science News

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Zimbabwe's total solar eclipse June 21st 2001



The first total solar eclipse of the 21st century attracted large numbers of scientists and spectators to the African sub-continent, but it wasn't just the sun - or lack of sun - that kept them occupied. For wildlife enthusiasts, the eclipse meant the chance to take part in a unique research project, initiated, designed and organised by Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe, under the leadership of their then president, Shirley Cormack, in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Over the centuries, accounts of eclipses have repeatedly mentioned altered animal behaviour - gulls taking to the skies, insects falling silent — yet there have apparently been no large-scale, scientifically robust studies of animal eclipse behaviour - until now. The eclipse of 21 June 2001 saw the first such study, with 250 members of the voluntary group Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe, both amateurs and professionals, camped in the Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe, with lion, hippo and vulture for company, right in the path of the eclipse. The research was developed to observe and record the effects of the total solar eclipse on the behaviour of wildlife in the park, and covered a period of 3 days in order to provide comparisons between normal and eclipse conditions. The data is still undergoing comparative analysis, and the results will be submitted to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, but various personal reports were filed for Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe and are presented in this article.

The Zimbabwe Science News Volume 35 (3+ 4) 2001, pp. 69-72

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