Mana Pools dries up due to climate change

– The 2019 drought left Mana Pools dry for the first time and two out of four have not recovered since then, officials revealed.

John Cassim

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (ZimParks) officials have expressed concern, Mana Pools are drying up owing to climate change.

The 2019 drought left Mana Pools dry for the first time and two out of four have not recovered since then.

A huge elephant population, land degradation as well as habitat loss are some of the leading factors threatening the biodiversity in the Mana Pools National Park.

“Climate change is leading to the drying up of Mana Pools, right now Chine and Green Pools have dried up and only the Long pool is now able to carry water up to the next rainy season.

The Long Pool and Chisasiko are the pools that can now hold water during the dry months of September and October,” Edmore Ngosi, Area Manager for Mana Pools National Park said during a media tour recently.

The name Mana Pools was derived from the Shona word ‘Mana’ meaning Four in reference to the large pools that are remnants of ancient ox-bow lakes, carved out by the mighty Zambezi when it changed its course, back in the day. 

The pools formed way before the 1960s but since 1963, Mana Pools has been a protected area and Chisasiko is the longest being seven kilometers.

Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a huge herd of elephant, buffalo, wild dogs (endangered), lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas.

The Park has over 350 bird species and the largest hippopotamus population in Zimbabwe.

Already the hippopotamus population is feared to be dwindling hence concern as the water bodies continue to disappear.

– siltation 

According to Edmore, siltation is one major cause for the drying up of the pools.

It was evident during the tour that the pools are no longer deep enough to carry large quantities of water to sustain them for the whole year.

Gullies are also forming everywhere a sign of land degradation partly due to overpopulation of elephants in the area.

Already one pool (Chine) is on the brink of extinction and some are already showing signs of siltation and sand filling and this natural habitat and the benefits it brings could soon be gone.

“Mana Pools is a flood plain and whenever it’s flooded, the four pools fill up and so does the entire channel. 

There is a lot of erosion that is taking place in the catchment area and this has resulted in the siltation of the pool and in the process resulting in the low water levels,” Edmore added

– baobab trees dying 

Meanwhile ZimParks authorities revealed that baobab trees in Mana Pools are being decimated and evidence started showing in 2020 when one of the iconic baobab trees that attracted thousands of tourists, began to die.

“The baobab tree species are now under threat in this park because of the huge elephant population here which feed on the tree barks and pods. As such there are no shoots of baobab trees as elephants also graze on the young plants and seed.

We need to act fast to restore the species using the baobab re-afforestation model that is being used in the Gonarezhou National Park,” Edmore said. 

Following the loss of vegetation like baobab trees in Gonarezhou National Parks a decision was made in 2015 to protect the trees.

Depending on the location of the tree and time constraints, a tree is protected by packing a ring of rocks around its base, dragging fallen logs into a protective circle around it.

Sometimes the tree trunk is wrapped in wire mesh and so far, there has been a success.

To date, trees around Chipinda Pools, Chilojo Cliffs and south bank of the lower Runde, have received the most attention.

However, funding has been a major issue as it costs more than US$ 300 to protect one tree.   

Meanwhile Olivia Mufute, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Director for Zimbabwe indicated that problems of wildlife survival are increasing owing to climate change.

“Climate change is real, problems for wildlife survival are escalating and we need to deploy solutions that tackle both climate change and human induced actions that are leading to land degradation,” Olivia said during the media that was facilitated by her organisation in partnership with ZimParks.

Already AWF has invested US$ 10 million for capacity building of wildlife officials and in the mid-Zambezi in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Provision of surveillance equipment and satellite radios, construction of staff quarters, installation of solar powered ICT units and purchase of boats have helped reduce poaching in the area, ZimParks officials have revealed.

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