Hwange elephant deaths linked to poor park maintenance

The deaths of an estimated 100 elephants in the Hwange National Park is being linked to poor park maintenance, amid warnings that Zimbabwe’s wildlife is facing a serious disaster.

An estimated 100 elephants are believed to have died from thirst since October, with the majority of waterholes in the park drying up. The Park has no perennial rivers and very little natural surface water and most of the water available to the animals has to be pumped from boreholes.

But the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe, which for years has been plagued by lack of funding and alleged corruption, has not been able to keep the pumps going.

According to the Herald newspaper, Zimbabwe Parks director 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,” he said.

But Johnny Rodrigues from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) told SW Radio Africa on Monday that poor maintenance from the Park side means the pumps do not work. He said that wildlife is not a priority in Zimbabwe.

“This is quite a disaster taking place and Park authorities have so many excuses for why they can’t even do basic maintenance,” Rodrigues said.

He added that it was only because of groups like the Friends of Hwange Trust that the animals have access to water. Friends of Hwange was formed on the back of the extreme drought of 2005, which saw them step in and take over the maintenance of 10 boreholes in Hwange park. This has involved raising funds to purchase diesel as well as repairing and maintaining the diesel engines, boreholes and troughs.

On Monday Rodrigues said the Trust and ZCTF need help in staying on top of the maintenance, explaining that about 54 new diesel engines are required to replace the worn out ones used at the water pumps. He explained that the motors only last about five years, but he said: “Hopefully in the next five or six years things will improve politically and wildlife will be a priority.” – SW Radio Africa News

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