Hwange National Park water shortages under control Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu

Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter

Authorities are taking steps to address water shortages at the Hwange National Park where some big species like buffalos were recently reported to be migrating to neighbouring Botswana due to drought.

Environment, Climate and Wildlife Management Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, said while climate change was taking its toll on the country’s conservation, the media should report responsibly on the issue and avoid speculating.

He was referring to recent reports that herds of elephants had migrated from the park saying this was not entirely true. The minister also clarified that even if animal migration does happen, the same area is part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza-TFCA), which allows movement of wildlife between Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola borders.

He said Hwange National Park, which has no natural rivers and dries up during the dry season, has more than 100 solar powered water holes.

“It’s true that climate change is affecting us and we are having serious challenges with water. As you would know that in our national park, we have about 104 solar powered water bodies where we pump into a pool but we can only pump during the day and the bigger species like elephants consume almost that which can be pumped in a day and other species like buffaloes struggle for water,” said Minister Ndlovu.

“There was one herd of buffaloes that crossed into Botswana and Botswana is very particular about buffalo movement because of their cattle farming and foot and mouth situation. So, they raised the alarm that there was a buffalo herd.”

The minister said the reports were, unfortunately, twisted to claim that some elephants had crossed into Botswana, noting that the Kaza TFCA is a corridor that allows for movement of animals.

“Media should do justice to our people. The truth is that while we have water challenges here and there the situation remains under control and we are now looking at alternative ways of pumping water so that we can pump during the day and also at night and increase the water availability,” he said.

Government will also be engaging some conservation partners, especially the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) whose presence through a partnership with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has significantly improved animal conservation in Hwange National Park, said Ndlovu.

IFAW and Zimparks entered into a five-year partnership where the international organisation built a new camp in Makona so as to help improve the presence of rangers and reduce poaching.

Nyamandlovu Pan near Main Camp was renovated through scooping mud and deepening it through the partnership. IFAW also renovated the road linking Hwange Main Camp to Makona, furnished veterinary laboratory and Mtshibi Camp and also equipped Zimparks with patrol and service vehicles. Minister Ndlovu said IFAW had helped in many ways.

Meanwhile, an aerial elephant survey conducted by the Kaza-TFCA whose results were released recently showed that the elephant population had increased by over 10 000 from 216 970 in 2016 to 227 900 in the region.

The report showed that there is free movement of animals across boundaries.

Hwange National Park and surrounding areas that fall under Kaza have 65 028 elephants, making 29 percent of Kaza elephant population, the second after Botswana, which has 131 090 elephants making 58 percent of the total Kaza elephant population.

Zimbabwe had 57 398 elephants in the Kaza-administered areas in 2016. There are thousands of buffaloes in Hwange National Park, some of them in herds of more than 400.

The overpopulation of elephants in the biggest game park, which is home to more than 100 mammals and 400 bird species, has been blamed for human-wildlife conflict, migration of animals and death of some wildlife as the jumbos are known for destroying the habitat and water sources.

Measuring over 14 000 square kilometres, Hwange National Park is home to the world’s second biggest population of elephants after Botswana.

It is a key component of Kaza, forming an integral part of the “room-to-roam initiative” being implemented by Ifaw to secure landscapes and maintain connectivity for elephants and other wildlife.

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