Climate change accelerates wildlife migration in Zimbabwe

A substantial number of elephants from Zimbabwe’s largest national park are migrating to neighboring Botswana in search of water, as reported by a spokesperson on Monday.

According to Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, numerous animals, including elephants, are currently relocating from Hwange National Park to Botswana. This park encompasses an area exceeding 14,600 square kilometers (5,600 square miles) and is the habitat of approximately 50,000 elephants.

The spokesperson explained that water sources in Hwange National Park have dried up, compelling the animals to seek water and sustenance elsewhere. He also noted that buffaloes and various other species found in the park are joining this migration in significant numbers.

Although it is challenging to precisely quantify the number of elephants on the move, the spokesperson acknowledged that it has been a substantial migration, commencing in August. He attributed this increase in animal migration over the years to the escalating water shortages.

While wildlife migration between Hwange National Park and Botswana is not an unusual occurrence, this year’s migration is notably early, with climate change being cited as a contributing factor by the authority.

The mass movement of wild animals could result in heightened conflicts between humans and wildlife, particularly as the animals traverse populated areas in Zimbabwe. Farawo warned of potential competition between people and animals for water, indicating that this could exacerbate an existing issue of human-wildlife conflicts, particularly in remote regions of Zimbabwe, partly driven by population growth. Last year, government statistics reported that elephants were responsible for at least 60 human fatalities.

Zimbabwe currently boasts an elephant population of approximately 100,000, the second-largest in the world, nearly double the carrying capacity of its national parks, according to conservationists. Meanwhile, Botswana is home to the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at around 130,000.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has designated southern Africa as a region at risk due to the increased likelihood of extreme heat and reduced rainfall resulting from global warming.

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