Zimbabwe will sell or kill 5,000 elephants this year to stop ecological destruction in its largest nature preserve, an environmental official said Wednesday.
There are 31,000 elephants in Hwange National Park, which only has vegetation to support about 20,000, said Peter Mundy, the Wildlife Department’s chief ecologist.
A survey in October in the 5,600-square-mile park noted widespread damage to trees and shrubs by elephants, upsetting the habitat for smaller animals.
An elephant eats 650 pounds of foliage a day.
“We are going to advertise for people to come and buy them and take them away, and we’ll have to cull the remainder,” Mundy said by telephone from Bulawayo. “We don’t have many alternatives.”
Moving the elephants would be too difficult, Mundy said.
Killing elephants is controversial among conservation groups. Herds of more than 50 elephants are rounded up by helicopter and wiped out by rangers with fusillades of gunfire.The herds are growing by about 5 percent a year, despite continued illegal poaching for ivory, he said.
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