Harare – Over 50 people have been killed and more than that number injured, some of them permanently, in human-wildlife conflicts from January this year in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said increasing wildlife populations were leading to greater human-wildlife conflict.
“I can confirm that 56 people have been killed in human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe since January this year. About half that number were killed by elephants with the rest attributable to other animals. Several people have also been injured, many of them permanently and they can longer fend for their families.
“The fact is these animals are now overpopulated. When they are overpopulated, they become a danger not only to people but even to themselves. Vegetation loss in our parks is just unbearable, which is also a danger to the environment and ecosystems. Increased animal populations lead to water stress because of competition for a limited resource. ”
While Mr Farawo said some programmes were in place to control wildlife populations, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) placed severe limitations on what could be done.
ZimParks says Hwange National Park - the biggest home for elephants in the country – has 55,000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 15,000.
Authorities are considering translocating elephants to less populated regions, including outside Zimbabwe, but this is expensive and requires delicate diplomatic manoeuvring to contend with activists opposed to that practice.
After elephants, crocodiles account for 40 percent of human-wildlife conflict deaths, while lions and buffaloes are responsible for the majority of the remainder of fatalities in Zimbabwe.
The increased number of such deaths has prompted the government to start working out a model to compensate victims.
The Southern Times has previously reported that the proposed Relief Fund will be partly financed by hunting fees.
Some activists say increased human activity in wildlife-rich areas is behind an increase in the conflict.
The In Centre for Natural Resources Governance has said: “Generally, mining close to animal habitats pollutes the air, water and foliage, and obstruct animal corridors. Noise from mines mask acoustic signals that animals rely on and, in doing so, hindering inter- and intraspecific communication among animals.
“Coal dumps result in perennial fires that have burnt and agitated animals in and around Hwange. In response, many animals change their behaviour in an attempt to overcome the signal and cue-masking effects of the noisy environments. Wounded animals are always dangerous.”
The group says mining activities close to conservancies, such as Hwange National Park which is in the same region as coalfields, is disturbing animal habitats and wildlife could be moving away from mines and closer to residential areas in search of peace.
The number of deaths caused by human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe in 2020 have already surpassed the 2019 numbers.
In 2019, 30 people died in 300 incidents while there have been 50 deaths in the first eight months of 2020.
Calls have been made for more sustainable solutions to be formulated in dealing with the issue, like relocating people living in high-risk areas or erecting boundary fences.