Conservationists are fighting to save hundreds of animals from dying on ‘Starvation Island’ in northern Zimbabwe, where rising water has covered almost all grazing land.
The Island, which was once a site for rescued animals, was named because wildlife died there from hunger during the building of the Kariba hydroelectric dam. During the dam’s construction, thousands of animals were herded inland as the dam filled with water. Others were captured and relocated from high ground and outcrops like Starvation Island, in a programme known as Operation Noah
But in recent days, the Island has threatened to live up to its name for the first time in 50 years, with conservationists warning that at least 200 animals are currently under threat of starvation. The Kariba lake surrounding the Island, has risen dramatically, separating the usual five square kilometre Island into four tracts of land. As a result, the animals have become trapped without enough food, while some have drowned in the rising waters while trying to swim to safety. The largest piece of remaining land is reportedly the worst for grazing because of sandy soil.
Wildlife guide Richard Vickery told the Associated Press (AP) this week that seven impalas drowned on Tuesday after about 20 of them plunged into the surrounding water. Some managed to swim to safety while others had to be assisted by a boat of rescuers, who help the animals up by their horns to keep their heads above water.
Funds are now being raised by conservationists, including the SAVE Foundation of Australia, to take hay bales and food blocks to the animals who remain on the island.
“We would rather try to feed them, than dart and capture them, and bring them out because they are weak and have not been exposed to predators except for crocodiles,” Vickery told AP.
The rising water is being attributed to high seasonal rainfall in central Africa, which feeds Lake Kariba.