Elephants are herbivores that eat grass, bark, twigs and other vegetation for 12-16 hours a day. An adult elephant can eat up to 600 pounds and drinks up to 50 gallons of water in one day.
Zimbabwe, home to some of the largest African elephant populations, is experiencing the worst drought in years that is drying up watering holes and eliminating vegetation.
Over 50,000 elephants call Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe home. The grasslands and mopane woods of the park span 5,655 square miles. Due to the drought, elephants are being forced to travel long distances in search of food and water. Elephants are straying away from the park in search of food and destroying vital crops in the process.
Sadly, at least 55 elephants have been found dead from lack of food and water in the past two months. Most were located near dried up watering holes, reported Tinashe Farawo, Zimparks spokesman.
Farawo said, “The situation is dire. The elephants are dying from starvation and this is a big problem.”
The little remaining vegetation in the park is being destroyed by the influx of elephants. The park is designed to house 15,000 elephants but currently has over 50,000. In the meantime, the wildlife agency has been drilling wells to try and provide water to the thirsty animals.
However, the park is not funded by the government and has run out of money to drill more watering holes. In the past, the park sold some of the animals to China and Dubai to raise funds – even though animal activists opposed the sales.
Elephants are not the only animals affected by the drought. The park states that other animals like lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs are also suffering.
Thankfully, Zimbabwe is about to enter their rainy season which runs from middle of October to April. While the season brings heavy thunderstorms and lighting, it also brings heavy downpours – which the animals and people desperately need.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.