Sunday 10 December 2023

Hwange Park Zimbabwe! Overloaded by 50,000 elephants and 9 million litres of water needed per day, dependent on solar-powered water are losing dozens of elephants due to thirst with many more expected to die

Elephant Walking animated by Eadweard Muybridge.

Dozens of elephants have died of thirst in Zimbabwe’s popular Hwange National Park. Conservationists fear more elephants will die due to drought caused by climate change and the global El Nino weather pattern according to Reuters news agency. The seasonal El Nino, which brings warmer and drier weather all year round, has been exacerbated by climate change, scientists say. This is one of the concerns being discussed at the COP28 climate summit, currently being held in Dubai.

There is no major river flowing through Hwange Park and the animals are therefore dependent on solar-powered boreholes, according to an official from Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Authorities. “We depend on artificial water because our surface water has decreased. Because elephants depend on water, we are seeing more deaths,” Daphine Madhlamoto, chief ecologist at Zimparks in Hwange National Park, told Reuters.

Hwange Park is home to 45,000 elephants and an adult elephant needs about 200 litres of water every day. The water available daily through the 104 boreholes is insufficient. Reuters saw dozens of elephant carcasses near waterholes and park officials said other elephants have died in the bush, becoming prey for lions and vultures. “The park has witnessed the effects of climate change. We are getting less rain,” Madhlamoto said.

The rainy season in Zimbabwe runs from November to March, but so far it has hardly rained this year. According to the Zimbabwe Meteorological Department, the drought is expected to last until 2024. Zimparks says animals are forced to travel long distances in search of water and food and that several herds of elephants have crossed into neighbouring Botswana. Conservation groups are trying to supply additional water by disinfecting wells and pumping more water through solar energy sources to combat the crisis. Zimbabwe has an elephant population of almost 100,000 elephants, but actually only the capacity for just over half of them. This means that the national parks are overloaded, according to Zimparks.

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