Monday, 20 April 2015

Zimbabwe elephant populations show dramatic declines in some areas

The results of the “Great Elephant Census” in Zimbabwe show that the countrywide population is down by some 6% (Total = 82 - 83000) from 2001, The figures seem support the dual problems of high levels of poaching in some localities and high densities of elephant in others.

The Middle Zambezi Valley area, including Chirisa Safari Area; Chizarira National Park; Chete Safari Area; Matusadona National Park, Charara Safari Area and Sijarira Forest, shows a marked decline in numbers from about 14000 in 2001 to 3500 in 2014. Poaching seems to be the main cause, although some were shot for reasons such as crop raiding.

The Lower Zambezi Valley, including the hunting-based Safari Areas and Mana Pools National Park, showed that the numbers are down by some 40%, from about 20000 to 14000. Although only the southern and eastern boundaries of these areas are bordered by communal land.

Most of the middle and lower Zambezi regions, both protected area and communal land, are used for trophy hunting.

I have to ask how, when compared to the results for Hwange National Park, does the Zimbabwe trophy hunting industry back its claims of substantial contributions to wildlife conservation and protection in the areas in which it operates. Admittedly there are some notable exceptions, but the hunters are always stating that hunting protects the wildlife stocks virtually everywhere that they operate.

The population of elephant in Hwange National Park and the Matetsi Complex has increased by about 10% to between 50-55000. This is a major problem as it is above the carrying capacity for the area. But I also wonder why so many artificial waterholes are made available to them in the dry season, instead of closing some down and encouraging them to migrate into Botswana.

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