At least 12 elephants have died of drought-induced starvation within the past two weeks at Hwange National Park, the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe, officials have revealed.
”This is proving to be the biggest threat to the survival of our animals at a time when the country is facing one of the worst droughts according to the United Nations,” Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Park, told Anadolu Agency.
Hwange National Park, which was established in 1930 as a national game park, is on a 14,651 square meter piece of land, west of the country and is now home to four of the big five animals except Rhinos.
‘’The park was meant to cater for 15,000 elephants but now is home to more than 55,000 elephants, hence the habitat for smaller animal species has been destroyed too,” Farawo said.
“At first we thought it was poaching but we discovered the animals are dying with their tusks, we tested the carcasses but we could not establish poisoning, hence we concluded starvation,” Farawo explained.
The park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores, all Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals are found in Hwange.
In October 2013 poachers killed more than 300 African elephants with cyanide after poisoning their waterhole in Hwange. Conservationists have claimed the incident to be the largest illegal killing of animals in Southern Africa in 25 years.