Leonard Ncube in Hwange National Park
THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has started translocating elephants from Hwange National Park to Chizarira National Park, to ease the impact of drought in the former.
There are more than 45 000 elephants in Hwange National Park, the country’s biggest game reserve, against a carrying capacity of about 18 000.
ZimParks started capturing the jumbos yesterday and hopes to move 100 for now and monitor how they adapt to the new environment before more can be moved.
Hwange National Park relies on artificial pumping of borehole water for wildlife consumption while Chizarira, whose population has reportedly been decreasing over the years, has natural sources.
More than 10 sub-adult elephants had been captured yesterday and are being kept in pens at Mtshibi Camp, near Hwange Main Camp before transportation.
Wildlife manager and ecologist, Mr Ray Makwehe, who is leading the process, said it costs about $2 000 to capture one elephant.
“We are doing translocation of elephants as we destock this area to Chizarira National Park whose population has gone down due to poaching.
“The process involves mobilising resources in terms of fuel, manpower and also checking on the destination whether there are holding camps. Here we have Mtshibi Camp where those captured are being kept. We are targeting sub adults and we will also capture a few bigger females as we want 100 for now,” said Mr Makwehe.
Yesterday ZimParks rangers were busy tracking elephant herds using a helicopter. They would sedate their targets and load them into mobile cages to the holding pens where they are injected with a tranquiliser to reverse the sedation.
Mr Makwehe said there was too much pressure on water sources as a result of the bigger elephant population in Hwange National Park, as one jumbo drinks more than 200 litres a day.
“This time of the year there are so many elephants coming to water holes and that exerts too much pressure on water supply hence this move is drought related,” he said.
The jumbos will be kept in the pens for about two months when they would have gotten accustomed to the pens and be transported to their new permanent sanctuary.
Ms Lovelater Sebele, also an ecologist said after assessing game parks, they found Chizarira National Park a suitable habitat.
“We did an environmental assessment to look at habitability in terms of trees and water to see if they can sustain the population. We will start with 100 on a trial run and then maybe the population will grow.
“The huge population at Hwange National Park is affecting other species as elephants bully smaller species for water.”