Advertisement

Updated December 20th, 2023 at 16:55 IST

At least 100 elephants die in drought-stricken Zimbabwe park, sign of El Nino, climate change

At least 100 elephants have died in Zimbabwe’s largest national park in recent weeks because of drought.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Elephants die in Zimbabwe's largest national park amid a drought.
Elephants die in Zimbabwe's largest national park amid a drought. | Image:AP
Advertisement

At least 100 elephants have died in Zimbabwe’s largest national park in recent weeks because of drought, their carcasses a grisly sign of what wildlife authorities and conservation groups say is the impact of climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Warnings from authorities indicate that additional casualties are likely due to anticipated drought conditions and increasing temperatures in various regions of the southern African nation, including Hwange National Park. The International Fund for Animal Welfare characterizes this situation as a critical crisis for elephants and other wildlife.

Advertisement

“El Nino is making an already dire situation worse,” said Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

El Nino, a cyclical and natural weather phenomenon, involves the warming of specific Pacific regions, influencing global weather patterns. Although the current El Nino has resulted in devastating floods in East Africa, it is anticipated to bring below-average rainfall to southern Africa.

Advertisement

That has already been felt in Zimbabwe, where the rainy season began weeks later than usual. While some rain has now fallen, the forecasts are generally for a dry, hot summer ahead.

Studies indicate that climate change may be making El Ninos stronger, leading to more extreme consequences.

Advertisement

Authorities fear a repeat of 2019, when more than 200 elephants in Hwange died in a severe drought.

“This phenomenon is recurring,” said Phillip Kuvawoga, a landscape program director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which raised the alarm for Hwange’s elephants in a report this month.

Advertisement

Parks agency spokesperson Farawo posted a video on social media site X, formerly Twitter, showing a young elephant struggling for its life after becoming stuck in mud in a water hole that had partly dried up in Hwange.

“The most affected elephants are the young, elderly and sick that can’t travel long distances to find water,” Farawo said. He said an average-sized elephant needs a daily water intake of about 200 liters (52 gallons) .

Advertisement

Park rangers remove the tusks from dead elephants where they can for safekeeping and so the carcasses don’t attract poachers.

Hwange is home to around 45,000 elephants along with more than 100 other mammal species and 400 bird species.

Advertisement

Zimbabwe’s rainy season once started reliably in October and ran through to March. It has become erratic in recent years and conservationists have noticed longer, more severe dry spells.

“Our region will have significantly less rainfall, so the dry spell could return soon because of El Nino,” said Trevor Lane, director of The Bhejane Trust, a conservation group which assists Zimbabwe’s parks agency.

Advertisement

He said his organization has been pumping 1.5 million liters of water into Hwange’s waterholes daily from over 50 boreholes it manages in partnership with the parks agency. The 14,500-square-kilometer (5,600-square-mile) park, which doesn’t have a major river flowing through it, has just over 100 solar-powered boreholes that pump water for the animals.

Saving elephants is not just for the animals’ sake, conservationists say. They are a key ally in fighting climate change through the ecosystem by dispersing vegetation over long distances through dung that contains plant seeds, enabling forests to spread, regenerate and flourish. Trees suck planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Advertisement

“They perform a far bigger role than humans in reforestation,” Lane said. “That is one of the reasons we fight to keep elephants alive.”

(AP Inputs)

Advertisement

Published December 20th, 2023 at 16:55 IST

Your Voice. Now Direct.

Send us your views, we’ll publish them. This section is moderated.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Whatsapp logo