50 lose lives to wildlife as dry spell persists

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Luyanduhlobo Makwati

Wild animals are encroaching into human settlements in some parts Matabeleland South, fuelling insecurity in the communities, it has emerged.

Consecutive climate change induced droughts have been blamed for the now prevalent human and wildlife conflict in the dry province.

Zimbabwe National Parks has recorded that 50 people have been killed by wild animals this year alone, while at least 47 people injured in attacks by wild animals and suffered permanent injuries.

This has largely been blamed on water scarcity and early depletion of pastures in the wildlife range.

In Kafusi and Gungwe areas villagers said they now share the few water sources with dangerous wild animals that also prey on their livestock because most rivers have dried up.

One of the villagers, Kitumetsi Sebola, said they rely on Tuli and Sashe rivers for water for domestic use and for their livestock.

“We have a problem in this area,” he said

“Wild animals are a menace here. We are losing livestock such as goats to wild animals.

Lerato Makwaiba, from Gungwe, said they feared contracting diseases such as anthrax because of the upsurge in wild animals roaming their village.

Artwell Nxumalo, a Zoonotic Scientist, said it was not safe for people to share water sources with wild animals as this exposed them to diseases.

“The expanding interface or increased interaction between livestock and wildlife increases the risk of disease incidence and the emergence of new diseases or the re-emergence of previously diagnosed diseases,” Nxumalo said.

“The risk is not only related to the health of domestic and wilds, but also to the occupational hazards that it poses to animal handlers and the consumers of game meat.

“It is imperative for communities to not drive their livestock into wildlife range land because their source of wealth can be attacked by lions and other predators. “While at times diseases like anthrax can breakout due to contact and sharing of the few water sources.”

Simiso Mlevu, the Centre for Natural Resources Governance media liaison and project officer said there is need for partnerships between relevant stakeholders to demarcate boundaries and fence off wildlife zones to minimise human wildlife conflict.

“There is a need to depopulate overpopulated game reserves and move animals to other areas where there are a few animals,” Mlevu said.

“There is also a need for government and development partners to erect physical boundaries separating game reserves and human settlement.

Tinashe Farawo, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson said the problem of wildlife encroaching into human settlements was national.

“The problem is not only in Matabeleland,” Farawo said.

“Our challenge is that we need to depopulate our wildlife in overpopulated areas because they are even killing their habitat as a result leading to human wildlife conflict.”

The Zimparks spokesperson said there was need for communities to benefit from the wildlife in their areas.

He said villagers should be involved in management of wildlife so that it would create employment for them.

“To address conflict, it is imperative that communities should relate with these animals through seeking employment from various organisation that deal with wildlife,” he said.

“This will benefit communities and lead to employment and communities will better relate with wildlife.”

However, Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyer’s Association (ZELA) blamed the challenge of Human wildlife conflict on deficiencies in the parks and wildlife policies which do not define what human wildlife conflict is.

The National Legal and Policy Advisor for ZELA, Nqobizitha Ndlovu, said the term human wildlife conflict is not defined properly in the Wildlife Act of Zimbabwe; as a result, communities tend to suffer when their property is damaged by animals.

“It is sad that the human wildlife conflict act in the country is not sincere when it comes to protecting communities,”

“The greatest challenge is the issue of compensation because the lack of a meaningful document has resulted in communities being the biggest losers in this whole matrix.”

“If you lose your life, kraal and harvest because of this conflict there is nowhere to go. Even in a court of law nothing will be done because there is no compensation framework in the country.” Ndlovu said

He added that communities are said to be owners of wildlife by the government when it is spearheading a conservation narrative. However, they have no power to regulate the wildlife and benefit from it.

When the government is hunting or culling in overpopulated areas, communities do not benefit in anyway as the trophies are taken to parks for resale abroad.

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