Zimbabwe's severe drought killing elephants, other wildlife
Eventually park staff freed the trapped elephant, but it collapsed and died. Just yards (meters) away lay the carcass of a Cape buffalo that had also been pulled from the mud, but was attacked by hungry lions.
Elephants, zebras, hippos, impalas, buffaloes and many other wildlife are stressed by lack of food and water in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park, whose very name comes from the four pools of water normally filled by the flooding Zambezi River each rainy season, and where wildlife traditionally drink. The word ``mana'' means four in the Shona language.
Nearly 105 elephants died
Mana Pools, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its splendid setting along the Zambezi River, annually experiences hot, dry weather at this time of year. But this year it's far worse as a result of poor rains last year. Even the river's flow has reduced.
Praying for rain
Seasonal rains are expected soon, but parks officials and wildlife lovers, fearing that too many animals will die before then, are bringing in food to help the distressed animals. The extremely harsh conditions persuaded park authorities to abandon their usual policy of not intervening.
Each morning, Munyaradzi Dzoro, a parks agency wildlife officer, prays for rain.
Barren flood plains, 45 degree temprature
An early end to a ``very poor rainy season'' has resulted in insufficient natural vegetation to see the animals through, said Mel Hood, who is participating in the Feed Mana project, which is providing supplementary feeding.
Most of the animals in Mana Pools ``are more or less confined to the barren flood plains,'' where temperatures soar to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), she said.
The "death traps"
The animals were pulled out by rangers, but they could not survive predators on the pounce for weak prey.
``The carnivores attacked it from behind,'' Dzoro said of the buffalo. The elephant carcass had been there for almost a week and emitted a strong stench as flies feasted on it.
At just 5% of its normal size, Long Pool is one of the few remaining water sources across the park's plains. On a recent day, hippos were submerged in some puddles to try to keep their skin from drying out in the extreme heat while birds picked at catfish stranded in the mud.