The growth of the elephant population at Hwange National Park is likely to lead to serious water shortages at the giant animal sanctuary, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) has warned.
The revelations were made in a ZPWMA report presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism on Monday.
To curb the population growth, the authority resorted to culling of elephants.
“Using a growth rate of 5% per annum, the current population is estimated to be in the range of 35 000 to 40 000 elephants today,” reads part of the report.
“The current number of elephants is way above the park’s carrying capacity with the major limiting resource being water.”
ZPWMA said all the water at Hwange National Park was pumped from boreholes, which was insufficient for the large animal population.
“Increasing water will not help in this regard as the elephant population will increase with increasing water,” the report added.
“Monitoring of elephant population trends indicates a serious threat to vegetation and other faunistic species.”
The authority said if the elephant population was not controlled it could lead to a high death rate of the jumbos and shortages of food and water.
It said 165 elephants died between July and November due to a heatwave that characterised the dry season.
“47% of deaths were recorded in the adult segment and calf deaths constituted about 25% of the total mortality,” reads the report.
An anthrax outbreak in the Zambezi Valley had also been confirmed as another cause of wildlife deaths this year.
Zimbabwe has an elephant carrying capacity of 40 000, but the population has swelled to over 100 000 because of good conservation practices.
Environmentalists fear this would have a negative impact on the country’s biodiversity.