CHENGETAI MURIMWA IN BULAWAYO
At least 60 people have been killed while 50 others were injured, some permanently, since January this year, due to a deadly conflict between a growing population and wildlife, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) revealed this week.
This is a 58% increase in such cases from 38 people who were killed last year.
Conflict between people and wildlife is becoming one of the biggest conservation challenges in Zimbabwe, Zimparks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo, told Business Times.
He said some have been trampled by elephants, some gored by buffaloes while others were killed by hippopotamus, lions and hyenas.
“We have received (more than) 1 500 distress calls from community members,” Farawo said.
He said human wildlife conflict was usually caused by wild animals that stray to human settlements in search of food and water especially during drought seasons.
“Human wildlife conflicts are on the increase during the drier months of the season starting in September and October until the onset of the rain season.
During the dry season, animals do not normally have food in the national parks and they stray from the protected areas into the communities and human beings try to chase them away and the conflict starts,” Farawo said, adding that people will be trying to protect their livestock and crops when these conflicts start.
He said these conflicts were rampant in areas that are close to national parks such as Save Conservancy, Gonarezhou, Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks.
Recently, an elderly man from Chirumanzu area in the Midlands province was killed by a pack of hyenas after they force opened the hut he was sleeping in.
Farawo said an armed team of rangers tracked down the pack of hyenas and they managed to shoot them.
He said what is also contributing to the increase of human wildlife conflicts due to the overpopulation of wild animals.
“We need to identify areas that are not overpopulated and move those that are overpopulated and causing problems in certain areas,” Farawo said.
Farawo said the increase in human wildlife conflicts is mainly being caused by loss of habitats such as clearing of the forests, population increase and vandalism of the game reserve perimeter fence.
“It’s not only wild animals that are encroaching into communities but also the increase in human population has resulted in people settling in game parks,” Farawo said.
Farawo said they are carrying out awareness campaigns that they hope will improve relations between human beings and wildlife.