Victims open up on encounters with wild animals

By Mhlomuli Ncube

A three-day outreach programme that took the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security to Matetsi, Mabale and Binga areas was quite revealing, with officials bearing witness to the heart-rending stories of human wildlife conflict.

“I was attacked by elephants while herding cattle. I was permanently disabled and now I can’t even fend for my family,” said Gideon Dube, a victim of an elephant attack.

“My husband was attacked by a crocodile while fishing in the Zambezi. We never even buried him because his body was never found,” said Shupani Nyoni.

Bearing the brunt of these cruel encounters, the villagers have also demanded compensation in event of loss of life while calling for a review of how they can benefit from conservation efforts.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARK)s’ limited capacity to deal with these cases also featured prominently.

“We cannot value lives lost in monetary terms, but let us have some compensation in such times and when we lose crops or properties, let Zimparks be given vehicles and adequate equipment to answer calls of conflict in time,” said villagers.

The Parliamentary thematic committee is convinced that the search for lasting solutions to the menace of human-wildlife conflict is a sad reality that requires an all-stakeholder approach.

“It is not only a problem confined to these areas we have visited. It’s across the country and as Parliament, we are concerned in coming up with solutions,” said Senator Themba Mathuthu.

“The reason why we came here with Parliament is out of concern. These are the victims and their voice is crucial in decision making,” said Tinashe Farawo, ZIMPARKS spokesperson.

At one of the outreach meetings in Binga’s Simatelele area, there were nine victims of crocodile attacks, three of hippo encounters and two who faced the wrath of elephants.

Since January this year, 39 lives have been lost due to human-wildlife conflict across the country.