THE government is considering feeding prisoners with elephant meat in a bid to improve their diet and keep the country's population of pachyderms in check.
Some 20 inmates died each day in 2009 as a result of a poor diet and disease, according to estimates.
"Things have improved and prisoners are getting three meals a day," deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu told the weekly Zimbabwe Independent.
"However, the meals do not meet the approved dietary standards as stipulated by the law," he added.
Plagued by cash shortages, prison authorities have been providing the country's 14,000 inmates with a diet of sadza/isitshwala, beans and cabbage.
The government and prison officials are now considering elephant meat as an option.
"Since experts say there is an overpopulation of elephants in the country, why not get some of the elephants and give them to the prisoners as meat?" Gutu said.
According to latest available aerial surveys, Zimbabwe has 88,000 elephants, with the population increasing at a rate of five percent per year - too many to be sustained by the environment, according to some experts.
However, conservationists disagreed with the minister's proposal.
"We should be looking after these intelligent animals so they are not killed," said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.