Zimbabwe: Mass migration of elephants due to water shortage

Elephants and other buffalo in Zimbabwe’s largest national park have been migrating for several weeks to neighboring Botswana due to lack of water, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said on Monday September 18.

“Many animals are leaving Hwange National Park for neighboring Botswana”, Zimparks spokeswoman Tinashe Farawo told media on Monday. Hwange Park (west), covering some 14,600 km², is home to around 50,000 pachyderms.

The migration of wildlife from Hwange to Botswana is not an unusual phenomenon, but this year it stands out for its earliness, according to the spokesman. Natural waterholes are now dry earlier in the year than usual, due to a lack of rainfall.

“I can’t give the precise number of elephants that have moved, it could be hundreds or thousands, but in any case, there are a lot of them,” lamented Mr Farawo, who pointed out that this forced migration began in August. “The animals are in search of water and food, and it’s not just elephants and buffalo, but all types of animals present in the park,” he added.

“The number of animals migrating has clearly increased in recent years due to increasingly pronounced water shortages”, he added. According to him, this massive displacement of wildlife risks provoking new confrontations with man: “More animals will invade communities, as people compete with them for water”.

Since last year, there have been several clashes between elephants or buffalo and residents of villages near Hwange Park. According to the government, at least 60 people were killed last year by elephants, which are becoming increasingly numerous. Zimbabwe has around 100,000 elephants, almost double the capacity of its parks, according to conservationists. With 130,000 elephants, Botswana is home to the largest number of elephants in the world.