By Judith Sibanda
Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Minister, Nqobizitha Ndlovu, says the drought crisis which claimed over a hundred elephants at the country’s national parks towards the end of last year has significantly improved, following recent rains.
According to conservationists working in various parks, the crisis was so dire that even birds were succumbing due to the scorching heat coupled by the unavailability of water and shade.
Ndlovu told CITE while there have been some improvements, most trees had not yet recovered.
“The water situation has of course improved, but its habitat or the pastures will need some bit of time to recover,” said Ndlovu.
“The rains came in handy particularly in Hwange, but we do have other parks where we are still on the edge like the Save Valley Conservancy, Matopos National Park among others.”
Wild is Life Trust, a wildlife sanctuary for orphaned and injured animals, said they rescued five elephant calves out of Mana Pools whose mothers were suspected to have succumbed to drought.
The trust said part of the rescued calves were stuck in the mud “enduring rocketing temperatures, dehydration, exhaustion and fear” and rains were their hope for a better season.
Bhejane Trust founder, Trevor Lane, shared a tragedy that was unfolding in Hwange with some elephant mothers were now abandoning their calves that could not walk long distances in search of water.
Lane said relevant scenarios were being played out at places that he has monitored in Sinamatella, Kazuma,Robins, Tshontanda and Chamabondo.
“Our officers on patrol were bumping on carcasses on a daily basis and out of all the random samples that we took; their death was entirely due to starvation not poaching,” said Lane.
“We are optimistic for now, the grass is green and all is well, but are definitely not out of the hook. We have limited water storage facilities and after these rains, we will be going back to the drought because climate change is real and on-going.”
The tourism ministry has urged the government to prioritise funding wildlife as it is struggling to provide water for animals leading to human-wildlife conflict.
According to Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan, the country boasts with an estimate of over 54 000 elephants leading to congestion in parks, mainly in Hwange.