Severe drought conditions in Zimbabwe have led to the death of over 160 elephants in Hwange National Park between August and December of the previous year. The Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority attributed the deaths to starvation, stating that most elephants were found within 50-100 meters of water sources.
The impact of persistent dry weather, droughts, and high temperatures has intensified across southern Africa, resulting in low nutrition and water shortages for wildlife. Conservationists fear a continuation of these conditions in 2024, prompting efforts to drill more boreholes and install solar-powered systems to mitigate the impact on the endangered species.
Conservation groups are racing against time to spread elephants into areas with better food availability and are adapting to the forecasted El Niño weather phenomenon, which predicts hot, dry weather and minimal rainfall between October and March. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anticipates a delay in rainfall onset, leading to prolonged dry spells and potential drought conditions in Zimbabwe.
Past droughts in 2019 also resulted in mass elephant deaths due to water scarcity, emphasizing the vulnerability of wildlife to climate-related challenges.
In addition to the environmental crisis, a surge in poaching has been recorded, threatening Zimbabwean elephants and other wildlife. Six recent elephant deaths near Hwange park have been attributed to poaching, with tusks removed, indicating ivory trade involvement. The economic situation in Zimbabwe has led to increased bushmeat poaching, as desperation drives people to exploit wildlife resources.
Efforts by environmental groups and authorities aim to address both the immediate conservation challenges and the broader economic factors contributing to illegal activities threatening the country’s wildlife.
IMAGE: ZBC News