Water for elephants needed in parched Zimbabwe

It is time of the annual migration as elephants seek water and find none. Death on the savanna.

According to official reports in Zimbabwe, up to one hundred elephants have died of thirst since October of this year in the Hwange Natural Park in the west of the country. Watering holes and other sources of water that depend on pumping have dried up and have “caused an alarming rate of mortality” among the behemoths, reported the state-run ‘Herald’ newspaper.  Each adult elephant requires approximately 100 gallons of water each day.

The east African region has experienced unprecedented high temperatures and a drought over the last few months, which have caused crop failures and migration of people and animals.

A spokesman for a local environmental group attested that, in the case of Zimbabwe, park authorities are not maintaining the vital pumps that supply water to elephants and other species.  The carcasses of fallen elephants have been found near watering holes in Zimbabwe, now the prey of carrion birds  such as vultures and scavenger animals such as hyenas.  This is the time of year that herds of elephants migrate to Zimbabwe from neighboring, and much dryer, Botswana.  Normally, they return to Botswana only when the summer rains of November and December revive the savanna and provide sufficient food. It is the oldest of the jumbo mammals, and the youngest, who appear to be most vulnerable to the drought.

The tourist industry is one of the mainstay’s of Zimbabwe’s economy and a government decree estimates that each elephant is worth at least $20,000 to the African nation in monetary terms. Currently, park authorities note that there is actually a surfeit of elephants at Hwange National Park, which sustains a population of more than 40,000 pachyderms.  According to The Herald, Zimbabwe Parks director Vitalis Chadenga said his organization 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,” he said.

Chadenga added, "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. “

Hunting is permitted in Zimbabwe under controlled conditions and serves to cull the elephant population. Elephants are known to destroy crops and menace subsistence farmers and pastoralists in the region. Safari outfitters charge as much as $2000 per day for hunting elephants and other big game in Zimbabwe.  This year, Bob Parsons – CEO of GoDaddy.com – came under fire for displaying photographs of his lawful hunt of elephants in Zimbabwe.
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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