Zimbabwe — More than 10 elephants and an undisclosed number of smaller animals were burnt to death in the Hwange National Park, the largest of its kind in Zimbabwe, after a veld fire engulfed the game reserve last year, it has been learnt, according to The Sunday Mail.
This has been described as a serious threat to the country’s tourism sector, amid calls by players in the industry to come up with stringent measures, including prosecution of those found liable of contravening the Forest Act.
The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s senior warden Trumber Jura said elephants and other wild animals were burnt to death by the blaze.
The fire affected the Matetsi, Zambezi and Robins conservancies.
“Last year in Matetsi, Zambezi and Robins conservancies many species died including elephants which were more than 10, whilst some had to be shot as the animals were seriously burnt,” said Jura.
He would not disclose the number of jumbos that had to be mercifully put down.
Jura said wild animals play a pivotal role as tourist attractions and also contributed immensely to revenue generation in the country through hunting and photographic safari expeditions in the western Zimbabwean province of Matabeleland North.
The Parks official said the Parks Authority had over the years been forced to channel most of its budget towards the prevention of veld fires and stated that the inferno was also a threat to the welfare of their workforce.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai said law enforcers would bring to book all those found liable of contravening the Forestry Act, citing that igniting unwarranted fires, especially in natural conservancies, is an act of sabotage against the government’s initiatives.
The Governor of Matabeleland North province Thokozile Mathuthu expressed outrage at the rate of veld fires that occurred in natural conservancies in the past years, stating that most wildlife-based tourism was developed in national parks and game reserves.
She said the destruction of the forests was a loss of tourism revenue.