18 November 2011

Zimbabwe: 100 Elephants Die in Hwange

SEVERE drought has killed an estimated 100 elephants worth US$2 million in Hwange National Park in the past month or so, and is threatening thousands other jumbos in the country's largest wildlife sanctuary.

Elephants are the mainstay of Zimbabwe's tourism industry and each beast is valued at US$20 000, according to Statutory Instrument 9 of 2009.

Erratic rainfall patterns, unprecedented high temperatures and a population boom has seen National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority pumping borehole water into artificial drinking holes to serve the 40 000 jumbos in the giant park.

Parks rangers, have since the heat wave that swept the country in late October reported alarming death rates, especially in calves and old jumbos, who have had to endure the long distances to the various artificial drinking holes. Asked for comment Parks director general Mr Vitalis Chadenga said his organisation was doing its best, even with limited resources to artificially supply water.

"Hwange is extremely hot and dry. We are actively managing the situation by pumping water from boreholes.

"Hwange has 40 000 elephants and that is way beyond our holding capacity. Given our way, we would have remained with 25 000 to 30 000 elephants.

"All the same, we have to actively manage the situation through artificial water supply in the park.

"In such circumstances, precious wildlife is lost and elephants are part of the victims we are trying to save," said Mr Chadenga.

Although several other animal species are affected, elephants are the most affected, as each of them requires an average of 225 litres of drinking water per day.

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