Shangani Ranch is a large, primarily commercial cattle ranch, with a rich and diverse abundance of wildlife. The property is some 65 000 hectares in extent currently divided into two blocks, one block of 20 000 hectares and one of 45 000 hectares. Together the sections are referred to as Debshan.

The Ranch currently runs 10 000 head of commercial cattle supplying beef to the local Zimbabwean market.

The ranch is situated in Matabeleland South province in the district of Insiza North with Shangani being the closest town. The ranch lies some 100km north west of Bulawayo and about 60km south east of Gweru, straddling both sides of the main Bulawayo to Harare road. The ranch sits at about 1300m elevation.

Summers are divided into a hot dry period, usually from August through to November, a hot wet period from December through to March and a cold dry period from about April through to July. Temperatures in summer can get into the high thirties while winter temperatures are often in the high teens or low twenties. Mornings and evenings in winter can be very cold with ground frosts not uncommon. Read More...

Probably the most unique feature of Shangani Ranch has been its philosophy of treating the wildlife found on the ranch as integral to the value of the ranching operation and not as competition to the cattle. The ranch constantly moves toward a more holistic approach to how the cattle and game are managed with management effects being constantly measured and adapted as necessary.

Since 2012 about 6 000 of the cattle on the ranch have been run without the use of fences to control and or restrict their movements. These 6 000 head are now divided into eleven herds which are herded during the day and kraaled at night with the people responsible for the herd living with them continually. The removal of internal paddock fences not only has given the ranch greater control over its cattle, but has been of significant benefit to the wildlife as well. Since 2012 the ranch has been moving toward the use of more indigenous cattle breeds in particular the ‘painted’ Ndebele Nkonie cattle.

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Plains game had always been present on both properties but by 1970 important species had disappeared, leaving only remnant herds of Kudu, Impala, Tsessebe and Reedbuck.

After 1970 the game was actively protected and subsequently, Eland, Sable, Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Zebra have been reintroduced. Proper management of the wildlife on the ranch has seen numbers grow steadily. The wildlife has been managed consumptively through the capture and sale of live animals, in particular tsessebe, safari hunting and fresh and processed meat sales.

The turbulent political times of the 2000’s in Zimbabwe has seen the unfortunate loss of a lot of land which supported not only agricultural enterprises such as cattle ranching but wildlife as well. The loss of habitat for wildlife has meant that Debshan is probably, outside of the wildlife conservancy’s in the country, one of the largest landholdings which still have significant wildlife both in species diversity as well as numbers. Read More...

Since the 1990’s the ranch has seen elephants migrating from their usual home ranges in the north west of the country to the ranch. These migrations occur during the winter months and usually result in the ranch, by August, September, having anywhere up to 300 elephants on the ranch. A unique feature about this elephant population is that it is entirely made up of males with a large range in ages. Poaching of this population has been a problem since 2010. The ranch has responded to this poaching by improving both the training and the equipment of its anti-poaching force. This improvement has seen elephant poaching drop off significantly.

All wildlife on the ranch is given equal protection from illegal hunting.

Since 2012 the ranch has embarked on an exciting research program, conducting several research projects such as measuring the effects of the new holistic grazing system, elephant migration to and from the ranch, a study to determine the size and behavior of our leopard population down to works on butterflies, spiders and frogs. The research on the ranch is supported by a fully equipped research facility. It is hoped over time that this research will help the ranch to manage even more effectively not only the wildlife but the cattle as well.


Shangani Ranch transformed its way of managing in 2012 when it adopted the holistic approach. Since then, the grazing planning process which is a major component of the concept, has gone through a number of changes in an effort to sustain the cattle, wildlife and people. Planning grazing for animals is a process which involves all the players on the ranch as it has a lot of variables.

Exploring the complex interrelationship of all the variables and how the implementing team has adapted this to create ecological, economic and social balance has created a process which works. As Shangani Ranch continues to holistically manage their cattle and wildlife operation, some changes have been observed. Monitoring and analysing landscape function processes over 12 months has shown improvements which positively affect diversity. The social impact is also surveyed. An attempt to compute the qualitative benefits and changes economically is done. This necessitates defining the aspects of the triple bottom line to clarify the effects resulting from applying holistic principles.

The complexly simple interplay between the ecological, social and economic benefits is determined to be able to understand how the balance is gained and constantly adjusted transforming Shangani Ranch cattle and wildlife ranch into a ranch run per holistic principles has affected the operations and resource base. Shangani Ranch also influences the surrounding catchment and this development will ultimately impact the livestock industry in Zimbabwe. Social and political factors in Zimbabwe are ever changing and beyond the control of management.

Constant innovation in managing and strengthening the resource base will determine the survival and success of the entity. According to Alan Savory, ‘The process of decision making and planning that gives people the insights and management tools needed to understand nature: resulting in better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental and financial considerations’ is called holistic management. How applying this process will impact Shangani Ranch and ultimately, Zimbabwe’s livestock industry will be assessed.


There is suitable accommodation in a first-class research center developed on Shangani Ranch. Projects registered with Zimbabwean and International Universities are encouraged. The property provides excellent opportunities for research and research collaborations.


The De Beers Group of properties were originally purchased by De Beers South Africa from the British South Africa Company in 1895 and the Shangani Group from several closely related companies in 1930, after which the two properties were integrated into a single ranching unit.

Both groups were developed from virgin land for extensive cattle ranching.

The Oppenheimer family gained direct control of the Shangani Group in 1937 and the De Beers Group in 1940.