BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) says 70 people were killed by wild animals, especially by elephants this year as human-wildlife conflicts escalate throughout the country.
Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo told VicFallsLive that the distressing human-wildlife conflicts were prevalent in districts such as Binga in Matabeleland North, Mbire in Mashonaland Central and Bikita in Masvingo where some villagers are bordering game reserves.
“As we come towards the end of the year, we feel it is important to update you about the human-wildlife conflicts that have happened since the beginning of the year,” Farawo said.
“We have lost 70 lives to different animals, but the majority of the cases were involving elephants and crocodiles ad most of the districts which were affected are Binga in Matabeleland North, Mashonaland West in Kariba, Masvingo areas like Bikita and Mashonaland Central in Mbire and Muzarabani.”
One of the tragic incidents involved a Victoria Falls bartender, who was gored by an elephant behind Victoria Falls police station last month as he was walking home from work at around 3AM.
In October, game scout Clever Kapandure from the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit was also trampled to death by an elephant during a routine patrol around the resort city.
“But we ask, why is it we are having this kind of increase because this year we received close to 2 000 distress calls from these communities either about lions, elephants and buffaloes and we think we are getting punished for doing what is good for our animals,” Farawo said.
“Our elephant, lion and other species population is growing, and our human population is also growing when our country is not expanding.
“If you look at Hwange National Park compared to 50 years ago, the wildlife has expanded, and this is why we are witnessing such conflicts.
“We are forced to share the resources like water because during hot seasons especially around October until now during the onset of the wet season, it means that more water bodies will be dry and that’s how the animals move around the communities in search of water and food.”
According to the HideAways Life Changing Experiences, the Hwange game reserve is home to an estimated 44 000 pachyderms inhabiting the 14 651 square kilometre park, which is half of the country’s elephant population.
Meanwhile, Farawo said they had embarked on mobile education campaigns on how to manage human-wildlife conflicts such as avoiding moving at night, keeping a safe distance and avoiding provoking the animals.
He said plans were afoot to review the Parks and Wildlife Act so that it speaks to the realities as Zimparks felt that the existing law was outdated and colonial.