Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Elephants and rhinos die as fuel runs out

Elephants and rhinos die as fuel runs out

Published on Thursday 4 October 2012 00:49

At LEAST 19 elephants and two rhinos have died of thirst as temperatures 
soar in Zimbabwe’s largest national park.

Conservationists yesterday warned more could die after president Robert 
Mugabe’s side of the government said it did not have the money to fix or buy 
fuel for the pumps needed to bring water to the surface in Hwange National 
Park, 8,000 square miles of wilderness in the west of the country close to 
the Kalahari desert.

Caroline Washaya-Moyo, for the state-run parks and wildlife management 
authority, said it was facing “serious financial challenges” and blamed 
accelerated evaporation rates for the water shortages.

But Johnny Rodrigues, of the independent Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, 
said: “It’s a man-made disaster. You can’t blame the animals and you can’t 
blame drought. It’s poor management and lack of foresight. We can expect a 
lot of deaths.”

Elephants regularly cross into Hwange from Botswana at this time of year to 
look for water. More than 100 died of thirst in the park in October and 
November last year. However, this is the first time rhino deaths have also 
been reported. The park is home to both black and white rhinos. It was not 
known which type had died.

Zimbabwe’s rhino population is already under threat from poachers who kill 
one or two a month. There are now only around 400 black and 280 white rhinos 
left in Zimbabwe, compared to 20,000 in neighbouring South Africa. The horn 
is shipped to Asia where it is used in traditional medicine.

Mr Rodrigues said the authorities “should have been pumping water from 
April” and warned that elephants would break down trees in the driest areas 
as they tried to find moisture. 


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