Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
A TOTAL of 115 elephants have died at Hwange National Park since September this year due to drought that has resulted in a shortage of food and water.
In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said water reservoirs were fast drying up in national parks.
He said at Hwange National Park, 105 elephants died in September and October.
Since the beginning of this month, 10 elephant deaths have been recorded at the same park but the number could be higher. He said Hwange National Park, with the biggest population of elephants in the country, is overpopulated.
“Ideally, Hwange National Park should have a maximum of about 5000 elephants. However, we have more than 50 000 elephants in the park now. They are competing with other animals for scarce resources. Most of our wild animals are in Region 5 which does not receive much rains. We are currently sinking boreholes as deep as 400 metres to try to get to the water table and this is costly and we are battling to cope,” said Mr Farawo.
He said food and water shortages at national parks were escalating human-wildlife conflict as animals were escaping from the parks to communal lands in search of scarce resources.
“A single elephant needs about 600 to 650 litres of water to drink and an average of 400 kilogrammes of food daily. We are experiencing the worst drought since 1981 and there is no more food for them in the park, and water can be scarce. This is one of the things that is escalating human-wildlife conflict as animals are now moving to communal areas in search of food,” said Mr Farawo.
He said the country is not coping well with the animals, hence there is a need to sell live elephants to ensure that the country remains with a sizeable number that could live a comfortable life and not starve. Mr Farawo said Zimparks desperately needs investment into water sources to prevent deaths of wildlife and ultimately protect humans from animals, especially elephants that invade communities in search of water, food and habitat.
“We have people who claim to love the elephants so much, yet do less to ensure that those elephants get the best quality of life. They are now overpopulated and sharing scarce resources in their habitat, which is also not good. They are now migrating to communal areas in search of food and water which has spiked human-wildlife contact in areas near national parks, leading to a rise in numbers of people killed by the jumbos. The sale of elephants is necessary as we are not coping well with the huge numbers,” he said. – @andile_tshuma