The severe drought has compelled the government to provide food and water for nearly 600 000 people in urgent need of food aid, but humans are not the only ones struggling.
In the Zambezi Region, home to thousands of endangered wildlife animals, the Chobe River is drying up and it is affecting endangered animals, such as hippos and crocodiles. The lingering drought and the drying up of the river are reportedly driving hippos and crocodiles into new areas.
The historic dry spell is reshaping the habitats of much of the country’s wildlife, forcing animals to search much further for water and leaving some vulnerable to death.
If such endangered species are not rescued in time, the events of 2003 – when some of the more than 40 hippos and crocodiles in the area got stuck in the mud in a stream of the Linyati River in the northeastern Zambezi Region – could easily repeat itself. At the time, the animals’ health had deteriorated badly, as they had been without food for almost a month.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the director in the directorate of regional services and parks management in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Colgar Sikopo, confirmed the effects of the drought on wildlife animals in the country’s national parks.
“We have a situation where hippos and crocodiles are now trapped in pools. And when these pools dry up, they become muddy. Hippos are known to be territorial animals. Even if the pools dry up, they just stay there. We now have to rescue them,” he noted.
Such worrisome situations, Sikopo said, are already being observed in the Chinchimane and Linyanti areas – particularly in Vamunu Conservancy – where hippos and crocodiles congregate in smaller pools. He said the floodwater did not reach Lake Liyambezi and did not flow into the Linyanti-Kwando River.
“We’re going to do a full assessment of the area and come up with best solutions as to what to do with these animals,” he indicated. He says such developments are not new to the ministry, as the same problem occurred in 2001, but they managed to move the affected animals in time.
He assured the public that everything is in order for now, saying the animals are in a healthy condition.
New Era has it on good grounds that some waterholes have dried up in most of Namibia’s famous national parks which are home to thousands of endangered wildlife animals including the big five in Africa (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo).
A tourist who visited Sun Karros Daan Viljoen Resort last week told New Era that he spotted wild animal carcasses at some of the dried up waterholes.
Another source said similar circumstances have been witnessed in Etosha National Park.
“The drought is all over the country… We’ve done an assessment in these parks. Our concern at the moment is not boreholes – our boreholes are still having enough water. Our concern is grazing in the some parks,” Sikopo noted.
He said some of the affected national parks include the Namib Naukluft along the coast, Daan Viljoen, Von Bach, Naute and Hardap. Further, he explained that the abovementioned parks are mostly affected because they are small and fenced off, while there is a significant number of animals.
“The ministry did not record any wildlife mortality in national parks and other conservancy areas, but we’re concerned when it comes to grazing in protected areas,” he said, adding that at the moment the situation does not warrant supplementary feeding.
Asked about the status of animals in Etosha National Park, he noted it is not a major problem, with the exception of Karros, which is a breeding place. He said there are a lot of animals, such as antelope fenced off in Karros, hence the ministry is concerned about what will happen if the rain does not come.
He hinted that the ministry might relocate some of these animals to ease the burden on grazing, or else cull them for drought relief purposes.
Reuters last month reported that neighbouring Zimbabwe has put its wild animals up for sale, saying it needed buyers to step in and save the beasts from the devastating drought.