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At least 55 elephants starve in drought in Zimbabwe

by ace

At least 55 elephants have starved to death in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park over the past two months because of the severe drought in the country.

"The situation is desperate," says Tinashe Farawo, a spokeswoman for Zimparks, the country's wildlife and park management agency.

Drought severely reduced harvests in Zimbabwe. One third of the population is in need of food in the midst of a serious economic crisis.

In August, a report from the UN World Food Program reported that two million people are at risk of starvation in the country.

Some of the elephants were found 50 meters from empty lakes – suggesting they came from far away and died shortly before reaching the puddles.

Farawo says the elephants caused "massive destruction" of the vegetation in Hwange. The park has a capacity of 15,000 elephants, but currently has a population of over 50,000.

Zimparks, the authority that manages the country's largest parks and reserves but receives no government funding, has been trying to dig wells but lack resources, says Farawo.

According to Andrew Harding, BBC correspondent in southern Africa, the problem in the gigantic Hwange National Park is not only the lack of rain but the very large elephant population. Too many animals led some of them out of the park for food. In the process, officials say, they have killed 22 people in villages this year.

Behind all this is the monetary issue: The economic crisis in the country means there is no resources to manage wildlife properly.

One solution, says Harding, is to sell elephants to foreign parks, but this practice – often questionably done – has drawn strong criticism from wildlife experts. They say young elephants have been separated from their families and sent to Chinese zoos with little means of sheltering them.

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