Global warming: Animals at risk from drought in Zimbabwe, flooding in India and Bangladesh

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2007:


change” does not really describe the impact of
global warming on Zimbabwe, northern and eastern
India, and Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe has always consisted largely of
dry forest and high desert, plagued by frequent
drought. Heavy monsoons have often battered
northern and eastern India. The floods of the
past three summers just accentuated the trend.
Bangadesh, 90% of which lies 10 meters
below sea level, was inundated in 1988 and 1998,
as well as 2007.
The disasters of 2007 afflicting much of
Zimbabe, India, and Bangladesh are the result
not of climatic change but of climatic norms
intensified by global warming to extremes beyond
the capacity of people and animals to adequately

In Zimbabwe the crisis is amplified by
inflation running at an estimated 10,000%,
crime, civil unrest, and the collapse of the
government into “kleptocracy,” as the New York
Times described it, in which insiders in the
Robert Mugabe regime seize whatever they can,
while they can.
“There is again a critical shortage of
fuel to pump water for the animals in Hwange
National Park, which is not surprising in view
of the extreme shortage of basic commodities in
Zimbabwe,” e-mailed Zimbabwe Conservation Task
Force chair Johnny Rodrigues on July 24, 2007.
“The park needs 20,000 litres of diesel to ensure
that there is enough water for the animals during
the dry season, from August to November.”
The 2007 drought has accelerated the
decline of Zimbabwean wildlife since 2000, when
the Mugabe government encouraged landless
supporters to invade farms and conservancies
owned or managed by residents of European
Rodrigues estimates that of 620
Zimbabwean game farms existing in 2000, only 14
are still operating, with a net loss of 91% of
the wildlife they accommodated. Of 15
conservancies existing in 2000, only the Save
Valley Conservancy remains, for a net loss of
83% of conservancy wildlife.
“We have not been able to obtain figures
on animals lost in National Parks,” Rodrigues
said, “but if we conservatively estimate
that only 10% have been lost, this brings the
loss over the whole country to 59%. Since the
collapse of the economy, the National Parks have
not been able to carry out anti poaching patrols
effectively,” so estimating a 10% loss is
probably low.
“Although wildlife is still fairly
abundant in Hwange National Park and at Mana
Pools,” Rodrigues added, “we receive regular
reports from tourists that they are very lucky to
spot any game in Gonarezhou and Chisarira.
Likewise, the Umfurudzi Wilderness had wildlife
in abundance prior to the land invasions, but it
has almost been totally eradicated now by
Speaking to the government-controlled
Harare Herald, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority spokes-person Edward Mbewe
on July 26, 2007 confirmed that game meat was
being illegally sold in Matabeleland,
Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central.”
The South African National SPCA on July
22, 2007 appealed for help on behalf of the
Zimbabwe National SPCA. “The call follows
reports that food shortages forced the Zimbabwe
National SPCA to euthanize more than 600 stray
animals housed in its kennels,” wrote Thabo
Mabaso of the Cape Town Cape Argus.
Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief executive Allan
Perrins “told the Cape Argus that public response
had been overwhelming,” Mabaso recounted, but
that left the problem of getting supplies from
Cape Town to the points of need, amid reports of
desperate Zimbabweans– including
police–hijacking truckloads of anything edible
and “requisitioning” fuel from any vehicle they
could stop.
“A statement by the SPCA said the mass
exodus of Zimbabweans to neighbouring countries
had left many animals dying of hunger,” said
Mabaso. “The situation is not conducive to
Said the SPCA, “Food for captive wildlife and
animals on farms is a central issue. We fear
that these animals may themselves become targets
for food.”
The drought hit South Africa as well.
South African National SPCA executive director
Marcel Meredith deployed eight emergency teams to
wildfire zones in Mpumalanga, Swaziland, and
KwaZulu-Natal during the last weekend of July
Initially the NSPCA teams euthanized
sheep, cattle, and wildlife who were caught by
the flames. More than 2,000 sheep and 300 cattle
were reported killed. The fires also killed as
many as 20 people, and left more than 1,000
people homeless.
Bergville veterinarian Ariena Shepherd
told Stephanie Saville of the KwaZulu-Natal
Mercury that farm workers ran through flames at
one point to cut a fence to save a herd of cattle.
That left the problem of how to feed the
survivors. “We’ve never seen anything like this.
There is no grazing or hay left for the remaining
livestock,” Paulpietersburg Farmers’
Association chair Arno Engelbrecht told Saville.

High water

Farmers in parts of India and almost all
of Bangladesh had much the same problem, but for
the opposite reason, with much of their grazing
land underwater.
Two weeks of heavy rain starting on June
30, 2007 initially brought extensive flooding in
Orissa and northern Andhra Pradesh, India,
killing close to 30 people, temporarily
marooning 600,000, and displacing as many as 1.5
million. The damage increased as seven major
tributaries poured water into the Mahanadi River.
The World Society for the Protection of
Animals began disaster relief assessment in the
vicinity after receiving a July 9 appeal for help
from J.B. Das of People for Animals.
“It was deemed that while large numbers
of people were displaced and affected that the
situation in this region was a cyclical event
caused by changes in monsoonal patterns,”
e-mailed WSPA director general Peter Davies to
ANIMAL PEOPLE. “It is deemed more appropriate to
avoid annual relief’ expenditure, and try to
undertake a disaster risk reduction program as a
model. WSPA is currently investigating the
details and cost of such a program,”
collaborating with the Visakha SPCA, of
Visakhapatnam, which has had extensive
experience in recent years with disaster relief
and recovery.
“Central to this plan,” Davies said,
“will be constructing cyclone shelters for
animals next to cyclone shelters for people.”
The crisis moved northeast during the next two
weeks. More than 5,300 villages in Assam were
flooded by August 4, forcing about 117,000
people and many of their animals into 523 refuge
camps, reported Sushanta Talukdar of The Hindu.
About 80% of oft-flooded Kaziranga
National Park in Assam was inundated, as it
often has been in recent years. The Pobitora
Wildlife Sanctuary was underwater from July 23
into mid-August. Kaziranga division forest
officer Bankim Sarma told Talukdar that a variety
of wildlife including an endangered one-horned
rhino had drowned, and seven hog deer were hit
by speeding vehicles while trying to cross a busy
highway to safety, but 885 hog deer, 112
elephants, and 50 wild buffalo were known to
have survived the crossing.
But Bangladesh took the worst hit.
Reaching Dhaka on August 12, WSPA disaster
relief coordinator Philip Russell called the
flooding “the worst in living memory in
Bangladesh. Two million people are believed to
be displaced,” Russell e-mailed to WSPA
headquarters in London, “many with animals,
mostly into temporary camps run by both the
government and nonprofit organizations.
Many of the displaced are small holders
with up to 10 milking cows and a few sheep and/or
goats,” who “rely on their animals for their
sustenance and livelihood.”
The only WSPA member society in
Bangladesh is the Bangladesh Animal Welfare
Organisation, of Dhaka, an animal advocacy
organization with little hands-on capacity,
which has partnered in projects with the
Bangladesh Human Development Program.
Russell was investigating whether WSPA
could usefully intervene as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to

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