Story by Tichaona Kurewa
ZIMBABWE’s ballooning elephant population has resulted in an upsurge of human-wildlife conflict, with nearly 400 people having been killed by wild animals in the past five years.
The growing population has resulted in the animals frequenting human settlements in search of food and water, but with dire consequences, after 66 people were killed by animals in 2022 compared to 68 the previous year, authorities put the death toll at nearly 400 people in the past five years.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said, “The year 2022 was one of the bloodiest years in terms of human-wildlife conflict, we lost 66 lives compared to 68 the previous year. The numbers remain high, with problem animals remaining elephants and crocodiles. Over the past five years, we have now lost nearly 400 lives and thousands of cattle, goats and donkeys as well as thousands of hectares under crops being destroyed, affecting people’s livelihoods.”
Zimparks outlines some of the measures being implemented to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
“We are now working with conservation partners to reduce human-wildlife conflict, we are encouraging some of our communities to grow chilli to scare away elephants, we are encouraging communities to reduce movements at night, not to interfere with the movements of the wild animals and to give us as much information as possible on the movement of the wild animals and we react in the shortest possible time.
“Over the past five years, we received almost 10 000 distress calls and we reacted to almost 8000 of them. We have also created various platforms such as WhatsApp where communities can also report such cases. We have devolved power to eight regions and we have people in each region where there is wildlife to deal with this problem.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says co-existence between humans and wildlife is critical.
International Fund for Animal Welfare, Landscape Conservation Director Mr Phillip Kuvawoga noted, “There is need for proper land use, and land planning starting from the village level, ward level and district level. Land use planning is important for securing key habitats, we secure key migratory routes for elephants and other species that require huge land to survive.”
The pending results of the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Elephant Aerial Survey are expected to give tangible evidence to calls by Southern African countries for the international community to lift the ban imposed on the trade of ivory.