Relief for elephant population at Hwange National Park


Leonard Ncube, The Chronicle

Date Published
The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has said the abundant water and vegetation in Hwange National Park will help reduce chances of bacterial infection blamed for the deaths of jumbos last year.

ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said the good rains received this year left Hwange National Park and other sanctuaries with abundant water and vegetation for wildlife.

More than 30 elephants died in Pandamasue Forest outside Hwange National Park last year and veterinary doctors Chris Foggin and Roger Parry from the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) partnered ZimParks to investigate the deaths and suspected pasteurella multocida was the cause of the deaths.

They however, recommended that specimen be sent to international laboratories as theirs had no capacity to dig deeper into the bacterium infection.
Government then sent specimen to some laboratories outside the country in South Africa, United Kingdom and United States for tests.

Mr Farawo said results showed the elephants died from bacterial infection related to drought while anthrax was ruled out.

“We got worried following the death of several elephants and samples were taken to Victoria Falls which is one of the best labs in the region. There were suspicion that there was bacterial infection and samples were taken to United Kingdom after they offered to assist in terms of ascertaining the cause of the death.

“The results came back and showed that there was a bacterial infection which mainly happens especially during the dry months of the year when there is little food for the animals that end up eating anything available,” said Mr Farawo.

He said ZimParks is working with partners in water provision, animal welfare and other conservation programmes.

He however bemoaned overpopulation of elephants and reiterated the need to depopulate the jumbos.

“This year we may not have the same problems because we had good rains so there is a lot of water and forage and our wildlife is thriving.

The only challenge that we are having is the numbers. This continuous increase of elephants population is causing loss of habitat which is affecting animals and we have always been saying our elephants are slowly becoming a danger to themselves because of numbers.

“Our goal as a wildlife authority is to ensure that with resources permitting, we depopulate where we have more elephants and put them where we have less,” he said.

The country’s elephant population is more than 100 000 while Hwange National Park whose carrying capacity is 15 000, has over 50  00 jumbos.

The giant park has 110 boreholes and most of them are solar powered.

ZimParks has expressed concern about vandalism and theft of solar panels and is working with partners to put in place mechanisms such as patrols to reduce such incidents.

The wildlife authority was affected by the Covid-19-induced lockdown as it relied more on tourism for conservation funds.

Mr Farawo appealed to corporates and organisations for partnerships in protecting the environment and wildlife.