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Saturday, May 25, 2024

100 elephants have succumbed to Zimbabwe’s harsh weather

A video shared by Farawo on social media showcases a young elephant fighting for its life, trapped in mud within a drying water hole.

Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, home to around 45,000 elephants, has witnessed a heartbreaking spectacle as at least 100 of these majestic creatures succumbed to the harsh effects of drought. This tragedy, attributed to a lethal combination of climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon, highlights the urgent need for global attention and conservation efforts.

Grisly Toll of Drought

The carcasses of these elephants serve as a grim testament to the severity of the crisis, prompting wildlife authorities and conservation groups to label it a direct consequence of climate change and El Nino. Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, warns that more elephants could perish as forecasts predict a scarcity of rains and escalating temperatures in the region.

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El Nino Exacerbating an Already Dire Situation

El Nino, a recurring weather phenomenon warming parts of the Pacific, is exacerbating an already dire situation in Zimbabwe. While East Africa experienced deadly floods due to this year’s El Nino, southern Africa is anticipating below-average rainfall, intensifying the challenges faced by wildlife. Studies suggest that climate change may be amplifying the strength of El Ninos, leading to more extreme consequences.

Recurring Crisis

The crisis in Hwange National Park is not an isolated incident. In 2019, over 200 elephants in the same park perished during a severe drought. Phillip Kuvawoga, a landscape program director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, emphasizes the recurring nature of this phenomenon, highlighting the vulnerability of wildlife in the face of climate-related challenges.

Struggle for Survival

A video shared by Farawo on social media showcases a young elephant fighting for its life, trapped in mud within a drying water hole. The most vulnerable members of the elephant population— the young, elderly, and sick—are unable to travel long distances in search of water, putting their lives at risk. An average-sized elephant requires a daily water intake of about 200 liters (52 gallons).

Conservation Efforts and the Role of Humans

To mitigate the impact of the crisis, conservation groups are taking action. The Bhejane Trust, in partnership with Zimbabwe’s parks agency, has been pumping 1.5 million liters of water daily into Hwange’s waterholes. The park, covering 14,500 square kilometers, relies on over 100 solar-powered boreholes to provide water for its diverse animal population. Park rangers remove tusks from deceased elephants to safeguard them from poachers.

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Conservationists stress that the survival of elephants is not only crucial for the animals themselves but also for the fight against climate change. Elephants play a vital role in dispersing vegetation over long distances through their dung, which contains plant seeds. This process enables the regeneration and flourishing of forests, contributing to the absorption of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trevor Lane, director of The Bhejane Trust, emphasizes that elephants perform a far more significant role than humans in reforestation.