Southern African Nations Fear Increased Elephant Deaths Due to Drought

Southern African countries, home to the world’s largest elephant population, anticipate an increase in animal deaths due to a severe drought depleting food and water sources.
The 2023/24 rainy season saw an extended hot, dry spell attributed to El Nino, a weather phenomenon marked by warming in the eastern Pacific that leads to hotter global temperatures. Scientists say El Nino has intensified the impact of climate change.
This drought has strained water and food supplies for humans, livestock, and wildlife. Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park lost 160 elephants by January 2024, according to the country’s wildlife authority, while Botswana reported 300 elephant deaths last year, per its environment ministry. Zambia has also reported elephant fatalities, with Environment Minister Rodney Sikumba describing the drought as “devastating.”
The five nations forming the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) conservation area—Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Angola, and Namibia—home to a combined 227,000 elephants, are meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, to discuss sustainable wildlife management. Sikumba noted, “The drought has severely impacted the region, drying up most watering holes in KAZA parks.”
“The lack of water and food will result in carcasses scattered throughout the parks.”
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) received $3 million from the national disaster fund to improve water supplies in national parks, but director general Fulton Mangwanya said it’s insufficient. “With over 150 solar-powered boreholes, we are prepared for the drought, but some wildlife deaths are unavoidable,” Mangwanya said.
Delegates highlighted that climate change has exacerbated human-wildlife conflicts as elephants encroach on human habitats searching for food and water, with Zimbabwe recording 50 human deaths from elephant attacks last year. Philip Kuvawoga of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) emphasized the importance of fire management to preserve food for wildlife.

About Geraldine Boechat 2735 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia