HWANGE NATIONAL PARK, Zimbabwe
At least 12 elephants have died of drought-induced starvation within the past two weeks at Hwange National Park, the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe, officials have revealed.
“So far 12 elephants have died in the past two weeks because there is no more water and the habitat is lost at Hwange National Park,” officials said.
”This is proving to be the biggest threat to the survival of our animals at a time when the country is facing one of the worst droughts according to the United Nations,” Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Park, told Anadolu Agency.
Hwange National Park, which was established in 1930 as a national game park, is on a 14,651 square meter piece of land, west of the country and is now home to four of the big five animals except Rhinos.
‘’The park was meant to cater for 15,000 elephants but now is home to more than 55,000 elephants, hence the habitat for smaller animal species has been destroyed too,” Farawo said.
According to Farawo, all animal species have been affected including birds but the head count for elephants has been easy as these mammals are huge.
“At first we thought it was poaching but we discovered the animals are dying with their tusks, we tested the carcasses but we could not establish poisoning, hence we concluded starvation,” Farawo explained.
The park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores, all Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals are found in Hwange.
In October 2013 poachers killed more than 300 African elephants with cyanide after poisoning their waterhole in Hwange. Conservationists have claimed the incident to be the largest illegal killing of animals in Southern Africa in 25 years.
In July 2015, Cecil, a lion who had lived on Hwange National Park for 13 years, was killed and this action attracted widespread condemnation and a petition calling for the then President Robert Mugabe to outlaw big game hunting permits.