Saturday, 24 May 2014

Human-animal conflict cause for concern

Msilisi Dube recently in Victoria Falls

THE area surrounding Victoria Falls town supports many species of animals, large and small. They regularly find their way into the town, notably along Zambezi Drive, Big Tree area, and between the Victoria Falls Hotel and the Victoria Falls bridge. In this magnificent resort town, visitors unfamiliar with these areas need to be cautious when moving around due to dangers posed by buffaloes, elephants and snakes, among other animals.

Since the Victoria Falls National Park was fenced off in 1951, many of the larger mammals were excluded from the reserved area although elephants still trespass.

Many residents of Victoria Falls are afraid of hanging outdoors after sunset for fear of animals.
James Munkuli of Mkhosana suburb said travelling at night is risky. He said animals, particularly elephants, are a threat saying many people have been trampled to death by the jumbos.

“Last week I boarded a bus from Bulawayo. I arrived in Victoria Falls around 7PM. When I approached Mkhosana suburb I met a herd of elephants roaming the suburb.

“I had to divert from the main route and use footpaths. It is now dangerous to walk at night because one might get attacked by these animals as they scavenge for food,” said Munkuli.

He however, said that animals were not to blame for roaming in the town because long back the populated area was their grazing land hence it is impossible for them to abandon their territory.

“Long back this place was the feeding place for wild animals, but since this town was built they were forced to relocate to the dense forests. It will be difficult for them not to be seen because it is their feeding area,” he said.

Be that as it may, Munkuli said the government should work out measures to minimise the human-animal conflict in the resort area as animals continue to kill many people and destroy homes and other property.

“Sometimes during the day you come across an elephant especially in Mfelandawonye suburb, hence the government and the National Parks should try something,” he said.
In February, a man was killed by an elephant in the resort area, the latest in a pattern of deaths caused by animals in the town.

Steven Mathe, 22, of BH18 in Monde, had his body mashed by a raging bull elephant as he walked home shortly after 7PM.

Areas such as Jambezi, Woodlands and Chidobo, which are out of the town are at worst risk as even predators like lions and hyenas are constantly on the prowl.

Villagers staying in these areas said that their food security is always threatened by wild animals which devour their crops and livestock.

Tetrex Tshuma said he regrets the day he set his homestead in the animal-infested area.
“I have lost cattle due to these wild animals; even now they have destroyed my crops. We are the ones to blame because we settled in their feeding areas,” said Tshuma.

He said lions were responsible for the dwindling number of cattle in the area resulting in low agricultural production since villagers lack draught power as a result. Cattle killings are affecting their livelihoods in other aspects as well since villagers in the arid zone live off the animals.
Chief Shana whose area of jurisdiction covers Jambezi said his subjects have been reduced to perennial beggars as elephants continue to wreak havoc on their agricultural produce.

“We are in trouble because these animals invade our areas and the worst affected being Milonga and Jambezi. There is little we get from the fields every year as a result of these animals. There is no food here and people are hungry though government tries to supplement through food aid or food for work,” said Chief Shana.

He blamed the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for failing to protect people and their property.

“We have countless times sought the help of Parks to help us by chasing away the elephants. However little has been done. When they react it will be too late as the elephants would have done unimaginable damage to our livelihoods,” he said.

Source: Human-animal conflict cause for concern (23/05/13)

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