Elephants from Zimbabwe’s largest national park have been migrating en masse to neighboring Botswana for several weeks due to a lack of water, one of the largest wildlife migrations into the region in recent years.
“Many animals are leaving Hwange National Park for neighboring Botswana,” Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told AFP on Monday.
With an area of around 14,600 kmtwo, Hwange Park (west) is home to around 50,000 pachyderms. Most natural water points are dry due to lack of rain, something that usually happens towards the end of the year.
“I cannot give the exact number of elephants that have moved. It could be hundreds, or thousands, but in any case, there are many,” Farawo said, adding that the migration began in August.
“The animals are looking for water and food, and these are not just elephants and buffaloes, but all types of animals present in the park,” he noted.
According to him, this mass displacement risks provoking new clashes with humans, as “more animals will invade communities, people will fight with them for water.”
Since last year, several clashes between elephants, or buffaloes, and residents of areas close to Hwange Park have been reported. According to the government, at least 60 people were killed last year by elephants, whose population is increasing.
Zimbabwe has around 100,000 specimens, almost double the capacity of its parks, according to environmental advocates. Botswana has 130,000, the largest elephant population in the world.