An elephant in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park

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image captionHwange National Park has about 50,000 elephants

Zimbabwe has banned mining in all its national parks, reversing a decision to let Chinese firms explore for coal at its famous Hwange game park.

The move came after campaigners instituted court action against the government to prevent “ecological degradation” in parks.

Two Chinese-owned firms had been given a licence to explore for coal in Hwange National Park.

It is famous for its elephants and the endangered black rhino.

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In court papers filed on Monday, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) warned that the park would turn into a “site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys” if coal exploration went ahead.

Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the ban on mining with immediate effect.

“Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks,” she added.

This is despite the fact that China is a major investor in Zimbabwe, and a close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

But its decision to give exploration rights in the park led to a public outcry, and the hashtag #SaveHwangenationalpark trended on Twitter in Zimbabwe, reports the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka from the capital, Harare.

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media captionSome believe the herd fell while trying to help a baby elephant

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