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Drought Forces Zimbabwe to Sell Off Wildlife

Local farmers and private game rangers are invited to buy wild animals as the country destocks national game reserves to save fauna from starvation.

Drought-hit Zimbabwe has invited local farmers and private game rangers to buy wild animals as it destocks national game reserves to save fauna from starvation, the wildlife authority said Wednesday.

Parks and wildlife authority spokeswoman Caroline Washaya said it has asked individuals and private game keepers to step in and buy wild animals "in the light of the drought".

She did not have details of the species or numbers of the animals up for sale.

The Animals Of Cecil's Old Neighborhood: Photos

But the cash-strapped country has been battling to reduce its animals – especially elephants – whose population is more than twice what the parks can accommodate.

A notice in a state newspaper invited "members of the public with the capacity to acquire and manage wildlife" to make offers to buy.

Zimbabwe has in recent years resorted to exporting elephants to countries such as China in a bid to raise funds and cut the ballooning population.

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The drought has left at least a quarter of the population in need of food aid and President Robert Mugabe in February declared many parts of the rural areas in a "state of disaster".

The drought has further strained national parks that are already burdened by the growing numbers of species such as elephants.

The parks authority relies on donations from well-wishers to supply water for the wildlife, and volunteers to carry out patrols to ward off poachers.

10 Ways Elephants Are Like Us

The export of elephants to China angered international animal rights groups, but some local conservationists back government plans to sell off wildlife.

"Zimbabwe is facing one of its worst droughts ever, even worse than 1992 when thousands of wildlife were decimated," Jerry Gotora, a conservationist and former chairman of the parks department, told AFP.

"All our national parks are in the driest regions and the biggest question as we experience this drought is 'who is going to feed the wildlife and who is going to give them water?'"

Two young bull African elephants walk around a water hole and confront a Nile crocodile in their pathway in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

This week the world learned of the needless killing of a lion dubbed Cecil who lived, protected, in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park until he was lured by hunters off the park grounds. In his honor, we take a look at some of the other creatures inhabiting Cecil's former home turf, using the latest available census data (fall 2013) from the park.

Lounging Lion Pride Wins Wildlife Photo Of The Year

As of September 2013, the Hwange site had counted just 11 leopards -- three female and 11 unclassified. Here one looks on from the side of a park road. It looks like it's been busy.

Snow Leopard Cub Makes Its Debut: Photos

Hippos dot the park, to the tune of 118 total, including 8 juveniles. Definitively four males and 12 females were counted.

Baby Pygmy Hippo, Clouded Leopards Keep Zoos Busy

These zebras would probably not be sad about Cecil's absence. The Hwange National Park census showed 1,828 of them on the site's grounds.

VIDEO: Why Do Zebras Have Stripes And Lions Have Manes?

At 202 total, giraffes are in shorter supply in the park than, say, the zebras.

Endangered Giraffe Species Gains New Baby: Photos

Here's something that would be much harder to see in the park than even a giraffe. The Hwange 2013 census showed just seven cheetahs on its grounds. Sadly, their populations are declining rapidly in all of their habitats.

Video: Cheetahs Never Prosper: Here's Why

You'd probably have a decent chance of seeing a baboon on a visit to Hwange National Park, though. There were 2,757 of them at last count.

Baboons Take The Democratic Route When Traveling

The park's population of trunked, lumbering giants stood at 20,373 elephants. More than 10 percent were juveniles, and some 5,600 were females (2,169 males and 9,139 unclassified rounded out the elephant count).

10 Ways Elephants Are Like Us

More than 250 spotted hyenas roam the park, with only 4 males and five females definitively noted, as were six juveniles.

Vultures And Other Animals With Iron Stomachs: Photos

This little Hwange Park resident is a banded mongoose, the most populous of the site's five mongoose species at 22.

New Reserve Protects Madagascar's Weirdest Creatures

And finally ... of course, as we know, Hwange National Park has lions -- 112 total, at the late-2013 census. Among those were, definitively, 41 males and 40 females. Here one of those lionesses shields her eyes from the high sun. Or perhaps she is remembering poor Cecil.

Half Of Africa's Lions May Go Extinct In 40 Years