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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 10:59 GMT
Zimbabwe crisis hits game parks
Richard Hamilton
BBC News

Elephant in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has more elephants than it can handle
A drought and the continued economic crisis in Zimbabwe are starting to hit the country's largest game reserve.

The management of Hwange National Park say most of its watering holes have now dried up and grazing has become scarce. They say 43 elephants have died, 53 buffaloes and a number of zebras, giraffe and antelope.

There have also been reports of an outbreak of a disease known as blackleg which experts say often occurs when there is a shortage of drinking water.

As if that wasn't bad enough, in recent years the illegal poaching of elephants has been on the increase.

The elephant population of the park has reached bursting point - it has a capacity for 14,000 elephants but currently has at least 27,000, and official government statistics put the population even higher.

Fuel shortage

The authorities say the country's fuel shortages are affecting the way they run the park - for example they are struggling to deliver spare parts for the water pumps.

A spokesman for the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a non-governmental organisation, said he believed the Zimbabwe government was hoping the elephants would starve to death, thus providing a way of culling them.

Zimbabwe's safari and wildlife industry used to be one of the most successful sectors of the country's economy, employing tens of thousands of people and providing a huge source of revenue for the game parks, but recently it has suffered a staggering decline - a victim, it seems, of Zimbabwe's general malaise and misfortunes.

Severe food shortages together with a deepening economic crisis have left millions of Zimbabweans in a desperate situation - now it seems their plight is being shared by the animal population too.

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