Harare — Four buffaloes have died of starvation while 500 other animals – buffaloes, impala, baboons and waterbuck – are on the brink of dying of hunger after being marooned on three small islands downstream of the Zambezi River since March.
The animals were marooned when the Kariba Dam floodgates were opened.
About 160 buffaloes, 200 waterbucks, 100 impalas and scores of baboons have been trapped on the small islands between Kariba and Mana Pools.
Zimbabwean and Zambian national parks authorities are putting together supplementary feeds.
In an interview last Friday, Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo said: “There are at least 100 buffaloes, over 200 waterbucks, over 100 impalas and several baboons on the Zimbabwe islands and at least 60 buffaloes on the Zambian islands.
“The Zambezi River Authority opened the Kariba floodgates in March 2010 in order to deal with large volumes of water inflows into the lake that had potential to damage the dam wall and cause serious flooding and flood-related damage downstream.
“As a result, a number of low-lying islands were partially submerged, thereby reducing the number of habitats and food available for terrestrial wildlife species.
“Habitat compression on islands gave rise to high densities of animals leading to overutilisation of habitats and their degradation into semi-deserts on some islands.
Ms Washaya-Moyo said since June 18, they had been mobilising pellets, soya- beans, salt, hay, maize screenings and fuel to ensure the animals are kept alive.
Ms Washaya Moyo added: “In general, all species are still in fair body condition except 50 buffaloes, which are in a poor state. One female could not stand, another was moving with difficulty and there were four dead.
“We are doing our best with well-wishers, but our main worry is that flooding increases in July and we need to put our act together with our Zambia counterparts before the situation gets out of hand.”