Drought Kills at Least 100 Elephants

El Nino blamed for lack of water killing pachyderms in recent weeks in Zimbabwe's largest national park
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 19, 2023 12:00 PM CST
Drought Kills at Least 100 Elephants
A dead elephant lies near a watering hole in Hwange National Park on Dec. 5.   (Privilege Musvanhiri/IFAW via AP)

At least 100 elephants have died in Zimbabwe's largest national park in recent weeks because of drought, their carcasses a grisly sign of what wildlife authorities and conservation groups say is the impact of climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon. Authorities warn that more could die as forecasts suggest a scarcity of rain and rising heat in parts of the southern African nation that includes Hwange National Park. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has described it as a crisis for elephants and other animals, reports the AP.

"El Nino is making an already dire situation worse," said Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. El Nino is a natural and recurring weather phenomenon that warms parts of the Pacific, affecting weather patterns around the world. While this year's El Nino brought deadly floods to East Africa recently, it's expected to cause below-average rainfall across southern Africa. That has already been felt in Zimbabwe, where the rainy season began weeks later than usual. While some rain has now fallen, the forecasts are generally for a dry, hot summer ahead.

Authorities fear a repeat of 2019, when more than 200 elephants in Hwange died in a severe drought. "This phenomenon is recurring," said Phillip Kuvawoga, a landscape program director at IFAW, which raised the alarm for Hwange's elephants this month. Hwange is home to around 45,000 elephants along with more than 100 other mammal species and 400 bird species. Zimbabwe's rainy season once started reliably in October and ran through to March. It has become erratic in recent years and conservationists have noticed longer, more severe dry spells.

(More elephants stories.)

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