Story by Tichaona Kurewa
ZIMBABWE’S ballooning elephant population has resulted in an upsurge in human-wildlife conflict, with 15 people having been killed by wild animals in the first three months of the year.
The international ban imposed on the trade in wildlife products and species in Southern Africa has seen Zimbabwe’s elephant population ballooning to around 84 000, exceeding the country’s carrying capacity of 45 000.
This has resulted in the animals frequenting human settlements in search of food and water, but with grim consequences.
There has been a marked difference from last year after 22 people were killed during the same period in 2022.
43 people were injured this year compared to 18 people during the same period last year while 561 distress calls were received in the same period this year compared to 500.
“We have noticed a slight decline in terms of people who have been killed by wild animals from last year. Last year we lost about 22 lives in the first quarter and this year we are at 15. The numbers still remain high if you consider instances that we are still recording. Last year we managed to translocate about 95 animals and this year we have already trans-located 150 animals. This is a way of dealing with human-wildlife conflict within our community. There are also cattle, donkeys and goats that were also killed by wild animals. We will continue to engage communities, teaching them about animal behaviour, and what needs to be done with certain species. We are always on the ground and we are also working with a lot of Rural District Councils to which we have given appropriate authority, so it’s not only the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority which needs to react to this problem,” said Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo.
The issue is a major source of worry for traditional leaders from Chief Shana’s area who indicated that human-wildlife conflict is threatening food security in Hwange District.
Jabula Village-Chief Mvuthu, Village Head, Amos Tolani said, “We are getting inputs under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa program and our crops have done exceptionally well in the 2022/23 cropping season but the challenge now is the baboons, they are ransacking our fields, threatening food security. We call upon Zimparks to relocate some of these problem animals deep into the national parks. We also call for the compensation and payment of medical bills for the victims of human-wildlife conflict. Relevant authorities must also make sure that there are one or two scouts or game rangers in every ward so that there is a swift reaction if wild animals are spotted in our communities.
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 and other wildlife species.
About 66 people were killed by wild animals last year compared to 68 the previous year, with authorities putting the death toll at nearly 400 people in the past five years.