Dozens of elephants die in Zimbabwe drought

A herd of elephants gather at a water hole in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, August 1, 2015. Picture taken August 1, 2015. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 October 2019

Dozens of elephants die in Zimbabwe drought

  • Africa’s elephant numbers have dropped from around 415,000 to 111,000 over the past decade, mainly due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

HARARE: At least 55 elephants have died in a month in Zimbabwe due to a lack of food and water, its wildlife agency said Monday, as the country faces one of the worst droughts in its history.
More than five million rural Zimbabweans — nearly a third of the population — are at risk of food shortages before the next harvest in 2020, the United Nations has warned.
The shortages have been caused by the combined effects of an economic downturn and a drought blamed on the El Nino weather cycle.
The impact is being felt at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve.
“Since September, we have lost at least 55 elephants in Hwange National Park due to starvation and lack of water,” Zimbabwe National Parks spokesman Tinashe Farawo told AFP.
Farawo said the park was overpopulated and that food and water was scarce “due to drought.”
Africa’s elephant numbers have dropped from around 415,000 to 111,000 over the past decade, mainly due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But Zimbabwe, like other countries in the southern African region, is struggling with overpopulation.
“Hwange was meant for 15,000 elephants but at the moment we are talking of more than 50,000,” Farawo said.
“The situation is dire. We are desperately waiting for the rains.”
An adult elephant drinks 680 liters (180 gallons) of water per day on average and consumes 450 kilogrammes (990 pounds) of food.
Hungry elephants have been breaking out of Zimbabwe’s game reserves and raiding human settlements in search for food, posing a threat to surrounding communities.
Farawo said 200 people have died in “human-and-animal conflict” in the past five years, and “at least 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of crop have been destroyed by elephants.”
The authorities took action earlier this year by selling nearly 100 elephants to China and Dubai for $2.7 million.
Farawo said the money had been allocated to anti-poaching and conservation projects.
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have called for a global ban on elephant ivory trade to be relaxed in order to cull numbers and ease pressure on their territories.
 


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 39 min 11 sec ago

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.