Probe into Hwange elephant deaths underway

Source: Probe into Hwange elephant deaths underway | Sunday News (local news)

Fairness Moyana in Hwange
OVERPOPULATION of elephants in the country’s national parks could have also contributed to the death of 25 jumbos in the Pandamasue Forests in Hwange, an official has said.

Investigations into the death have so far ruled out poaching or cyanide poisoning. In an interview, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general, Mr Fulton Mangwanya said investigations to ascertain the cause of death were underway and samples have been sent to international laboratories.

“So far we have registered 25 fatalities and investigations are still underway with the local labs but we have also enlisted the services of some foreign labs. I think we will get positive responses which will also going to assist us to find out whether the case we have here is similar to the one that occurred in Botswana and if so then the way forward,” said Mr Mangwanya

He however, said his organisation suspected overpopulation could have played a part in the cause of the deaths.

“But the way I feel is that everything has to do with the overpopulation of elephants because when we say we have 83 000 we are talking of 2014 figures. We need to do our survey right now and find out which figures we are talking about, there is overpopulation. When we were around the Hwange National Park we could see that the habitat is destroyed and these elephants are now destroying the habitat of other animals as well,” he said.

He said cases of human-wildlife conflicts were also increasing.

Mr Mangwanya said the Government needs to come with a solution to deal with the number of elephants in the country’s parks.

“We can’t leave CITES to decide for us because we are the ones on the ground, we are the ones suffering and the problem of conflict with elephants and a decision has to be taken.”

Zimbabwe is one of the countries struggling to cope with the imploding elephant population which has increased human-wildlife conflicts following a decade long ban on the sale of ivory by CITES.

Meanwhile, Zimparks has begun efforts to revitalise its operations by implementing the cluster system which has so far seen the devolving of its three regional offices into eight, a development that will result in swift response to Problem Animal Control (PAC).

“It’s one of the issues that we included in our 2018-2023 strategic plan so that we could support the devolution process that have been adopted by Government. We are now highly visible in Zimbabwe. We used to have three regions only but we have since turned these into clusters of eight which means we can now easily react to problems on the ground be it human-wildlife conflict or poaching.”