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Drought kills more than 200 elephants in Zimbabwe

Parks agency plans to move hundreds of animals, saying booming numbers a threat to ecosystem

WT24 Desk

More than 200 elephants have died amid a severe drought, says Zimbabwe’s parks agency, which is planning a mass relocation of animals to ease congestion, Agencies report.

Tinashe Farawo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said on Tuesday that at least 200 elephants had died in Hwange national park since October, and that other parks were also affected.

Animals including giraffe, buffalo and impala were also dying, he said, adding that the situation would improve only after rains returned.

“Almost every animal is being affected,” he said. “Of course, elephants are easily noticed during patrols or game drives, but some bird species are seriously affected because they can only breed in certain tree heights and those trees are being knocked down by elephants.”

Many animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water. The parks agency said 33 people had died from conflict with animals this year alone.

The agency said it planned to move 600 elephants, two prides of lions and other animals from the Savé Valley Conservancy in the south-east of the country to less congested parks. A pack of wild dogs, 50 buffalo, 40 giraffe and 2,000 impalas would also be relocated, Farawo said.

The animals “have exceeded their ecological carrying capacity,” he said. “If the populations go unchecked, the animals will threaten the very ecosystem they depend on for survival.”

Zimbabwe has an estimated 85,000 elephants, second only to neighbouring Botswana, which has more than 130,000.

Zimbabwe says it is struggling to cope with booming numbers of wild elephants and wants to be allowed to sell its ivory stockpile and export live elephants to raise money for conservation and ease congestion in the drought-affected parks.

The country exported 101 elephants between 2016 and this year, mainly to China and the United Arab Emirates, raising more than $3m (£2.3m) for conservation efforts, according to the parks agency.

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