Fri | Nov 22, 2019

Zimbabwe’s severe drought killing elephants, other wildlife

Published:Wednesday | November 6, 2019 | 9:06 AM
In this October 27, 2019, photo, a sun-baked pool that used to be a perennial water supply in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

MANA POOLS, Zimbabwe (AP) — Weak from hunger and thirst, the elephant struggled to reach a pool of water in this African wildlife reserve.

But the majestic mammal got stuck in the mud surrounding the sun-baked watering hole, which had dramatically shrunk due to a severe drought.

Eventually, park staff freed the trapped elephant, but it collapsed and died.

Just yards away lay the carcass of a Cape buffalo that had also been pulled from the mud, but was attacked by hungry lions.

Elephants, zebras, hippos, impalas, buffaloes and many other wildlife are stressed by lack of food and water in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, whose very name comes from the four pools of water normally filled by the flooding Zambezi River each rainy season, and where wildlife traditionally drink.

The word “mana” means four in the Shona language.

At least 105 elephants have died in Zimbabwe’s wildlife reserves, most of them in Mana and the larger Hwange National Park in the past two months, according to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Many desperate animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water.

Mana Pools, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its splendid setting along the Zambezi River, annually experiences hot, dry weather at this time of year.

But this year it’s far worse as a result of poor rains last year. Even the river’s flow has reduced.

The drought parching southern Africa is also affecting people. An estimated 11 million people are threatened with hunger in nine countries in the region, according to the World Food Program, which is planning large-scale food distribution.

The countries of southern Africa have experienced normal rainfall in only one of the past five growing seasons, it said.

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