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Facing Drought, Zimbabwe Says It Is Selling Off Wild Animals

African bush elephants on Fothergill Island, Zimbabwe.
DEA/G. Sioen
De Agostini/Getty Images
African bush elephants on Fothergill Island, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe says it is putting some of the wild animals in its reserves up for sale because of the severe drought that has hit the country.

That's according to an advertisement from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (known as ZimParks) published in a local daily newspaper.

It says the country intends to "destock its parks estates" by selling animals to individuals "with the capacity to acquire and manage wildlife" but offers few additional details.

According to the advertisement provided to NPR by a ZimParks representative, interested parties should:

"... provide the following information about the habitat [in] which they intend to put the acquired animals: name and address of property, size of property, ownership of the property, description of current land use, intended use for the acquired animals and existing infrastructure e.g. fences, water availability, roads, fireguards, protection/law enforcement capacity and manpower."

CNN adds that "conservation groups will be watching closely to see if any animals appear destined for hunting concessions."

It's unclear whether foreign buyers can apply, Reuters reports. ZimParks spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo would not comment on the number of animals for sale or whether they could be transported outside Zimbabwe.

"We do not have a target. The number of animals depends on the bids we receive," she said, according to Reuters.

The government intends to use the money raised "to buy food and secure water facilities for distressed animals," Environment, Water and Climate Minster Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri says, CNN reports.

Zimbabwe's famous national parks, which are teeming with animals such as lions, elephants, cheetahs and monkeys, take up about 13 percent of the country's land area.

The region is facing a severe drought that has taken a toll on food harvests. According to UNICEF, 37 percent of households in Zimbabwe are hungry. The dry conditions have "decimated" livestock. In February, the situation prompted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to declare a state of disaster.

According to Reuters, "about 54,000 of Zimbabwe's 80,000 elephants live in the western Hwange National Park, more than four times the number it is supposed to hold." The wire service adds that drought conditions at Hwange are already "critical" and "expected to worsen."

Last year, Zimbabwe sold dozens of elephants to China in a bid to raise money for conservation efforts, according to The Guardian. The sale was sharply criticized by wildlife protection groups.

Here's the advertisement that ran in a local newspaper:

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.