Elephants and other buffaloes in Zimbabwe’s largest national park have been migrating en masse for several weeks to neighboring Botswana due to lack of water, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority learned on Monday.
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“Many animals are leaving Hwange National Park for neighboring Botswana,” Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo told AFP on Monday.
Hwange Park (west), with an area of about 14,600 km2, is home to about 50,000 pachyderms.
The migration of wild animals from Hwange to Botswana is not an unusual phenomenon but this year stands out for its precocity, according to the spokesperson. Natural water sources are now drying up earlier than usual due to lack of rainfall.
“I cannot give the exact number of elephants that have moved, it could be hundreds or thousands but in any case there are many,” lamented Farawo, who specified that this forced migration began in August.
“The animals are looking for water and food and it is not just elephants and buffaloes, but all types of animals present in the park,” he added.
“The number of migratory animals has clearly increased in recent years due to increasingly serious water shortages,” he said.
According to him, this massive movement of wild animals risks provoking new confrontations with humans: “More animals will invade communities and people will compete with them for water.”
Since last year, there have been several confrontations between elephants or buffaloes and residents of towns neighboring Hwange Park. According to the government, at least 60 people were killed by elephants last year, and their numbers are rising.
Zimbabwe has about 100,000 elephants, almost double the capacity of its parks, according to conservationists. With 130,000 specimens, Botswana is the country with the most specimens in the world.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has classified southern Africa as a region at risk of extreme heat and reduced rainfall due to global warming.