Zimbabwe Water Crisis Forces Elephant Translocation


Financial Gazette

Date Published

Government has transferred over 500 elephants from Hwange National Park to less populated areas in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces in the wake of the on-going water crisis, the worst to hit Zimbabwe in 25 years.

The translocation comes at a time when Hwange National Park is struggling to accommodate its 45 000 elephant population.

It has a carrying capacity of about 15,000 elephants.

The 500 elephants being transferred from Hwange will be relocated to Chipinge, Chimanimani and Malilangwe, among other habitats with less elephants.

They had become a danger to both their habitat and surrounding communities, according to Water, Environment and Climate Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.

“We are in the process of translocation so that the animals don’t concentrate in one area. We have quarantined baby elephants after which we will translocate the elephants to habitats with a few elephants,” she told the Financial Gazette last week.

Muchinguri-Kashiri has been advocating for the resumption of trade in elephants to capacitate the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority to carry out conservation programmes.

Zimbabwe has the second largest elephant population in Africa.

The country has often threatened to pull out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) because it is not being allowed to sell its estimated US$9,6 billion worth of ivory that has been piling up over the decades.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said translocation of elephants was costly and advocating for expeditious trade in ivory against the CITES agreement was not criminal because the country was desperate to save its elephants from natural causes of death.

“Translocation is an expensive exercise so we are currently putting elephants in quarantine. We wish to trade the elephants so that we can use the ivory proceeds for conservation and develop our wildlife through drilling boreholes and translocation of the animals,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.

Although, reports of smuggling of baby elephants to China have often surfaced, Muchinguri-Kashiri insisted that trading in elephants was the only solution to conserving and growing elephant populations.

“Trading will help us because we don’t have money for conservation. The elephants have become a danger to the communities because they are now tracking down water sources in communities. It is a serious conflict because people in self-defense will kill these animals,” Muchinguri-Kashiri told the Financial Gazette.

The animals have become a menace to some of the communities surrounding Gonarezhou, Chipinge, Malilangwe among others where the elephants from Hwange are to be relocated. The lumbering giants are roaming the countryside in search of the water, which has become scarce in their natural habitats.

The entire Southern African Development Community region is currently battling its worst drought in 25 years as a result of the EL Nino weather phenomenon that affected most parts of the region.

Because of the water crisis, of the 85 boreholes that were sunk in Hwange National Park, only 65 are working, leaving the elephants, which drink about 200 litres of water each a day, in dire need of the precious liquid.

“Sixty-five boreholes vis-a-vis the ever growing elephant population is not proportional because some of them (boreholes) have broken down. We are in the process of canvassing resources and from the little we got (US$7 million), we are going to drill more boreholes,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.

The water crisis has caused chaos in communities across the country where only 10 000 boreholes out of a total of 20 000 boreholes are functional.

The country has been forced to import more drilling machines from Belarus in order to address the dire water situation.

Muchinguri-Kashiri revealed that the water table has gone below 50 metres, hence boreholes are now being sunk as deep as 100 metres.