Ten more carcasses of elephants have been found in the Pandamasue Forests of Matabeleland North, bringing the number of elephants that have died mysteriously in the forest in less than a week to 22.
ZimParks is still investigating the cause of death of 12 elephants whose carcasses were found in the same forest last week, but have ruled out poaching and poisoning since their tusks were intact while no other animal species has been affected.
Most of the dead elephants are juveniles and ZimParks now suspects the stress of overpopulation and lack of food as a likely cause of death.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said experts were still waiting for laboratory tests to establish the cause of deaths.
“Most of the elephants dying are young, and we now believe the cause of death is the density of the species. They suffer from stress and inadequate food especially this time of the year. They end up eating anything and some of the things might be poisonous,” said Mr Farawo.
“We have removed the ivory for safekeeping and we have burnt the carcases to avoid more deaths.”
Zimbabwe is struggling with an unsustainable elephant population of around 84 000 against a carrying capacity of around 50 000, the second largest population in the world after Botswana.
Botswana’s herd has also been affected by natural disasters, with an estimated 350 elephants dying between May and August this year.
“We continue to mobilise stakeholder support, and what we are saying is that we should be allowed to sell our elephants and ivory so that the country benefits from its herd.
“The burden on the animals becomes too much especially in these dry months, and we hope the ban on the sale of the jumbos and ivory will be lifted,” said Mr Farawo.