Zimbabwe has put its wildlife up for sale in a bid to save the animals from a devastating drought that has hit the country causing water and food shortages.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority called on potential buyers “with the capacity to acquire and manage wildlife” and enough land to hold the animals should get in touch, Reuters reported.
“In light of the drought…Parks and Wildlife Management Authority intends to destock its parks estates through selling some of the wildlife,” the authority said in a statement.
Although the statement did not give details on the species, the number of animals to be sold, or whether the buyers would be locals or foreigners, the southern African country’s national parks are known for their large population of elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffaloes.
“We do not have a target. The number of animals depends on the bids we receive,” parks authority spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo was quoted by Reuters to have said.
Apart from the failing economy due to corruption allegations, international sanctions, and hyperinflation, the drought has further crippled the economy with much of its food for local use and exports, like maize and tobacco hit hard. It is estimated that about 4 million people are in dire need of food aid, due to the earth-scorching El Nino phenomenon.
Moreover, the cash-strapped country is still suffering from the desertion by foreign donors since 1999.
The parks authority says it receives little funding from the government and struggles to keep the operations running through earnings from hunting and tourism. By selling the animals, the park will be able to raise funds to ease the financial pressure.
It was not clearly established if the animals could be exported to other countries if bidders were foreigners.
Some parks in Zimbabwe like Hwange National Park located in the western part of the country has 54,000 elephants, more than four times the number it is supposed to hold, according to the agency.
With no rivers in the park, and only relying on donor money to buy fuel to pump water from underground, Hwangwe is fearing for the worst in the ranging drought that is expected to continue.
While some conservation parks in other parts of southern Africa, are providing feed to the wild animals, and water by reopening or drilling wells for underground water, the venture is proving to be costly in these tough economic times.
In 2015, in a move to raise funds to cope with financial constraints, the parks authority exported 20 elephants to China, a country that is widely known for its ‘love’ for elephant tusks.
Protests by international and local animal rights groups were ignored. The groups that protested loudly last year, are yet to react to the recent development.
Since the killing of Cecil, a rare black-maned lion by an American dentist, last year, many hunters who were visiting Zimbabwe for the hunting thrill have kept off, according to reports by a privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper in February.
Bubye Conservancy, a private game park in southern Zimbabwe, could be forced to kill 200 lions to reduce over-population, the park’s general manager Blondie Leathem was reported to have said.
Image credit: Jami Tarris