Human and wildlife conflict escalate in Zimbabwe
Human and Wildlife Conflict (HWC) occurs when animals pose a direct and recurring threat to the livelihood or safety of people, leading to the persecution of that species. Retaliation against the species blamed often ansues, leading to conflict about what should be done to remedy the situation.
Human and Wildlife Conflict has become a worrisome frequency event in Zimbabwe in recent years judging by the occurances, number of animals shot down by Zimparks and also by the number of people killed by ‘stray ‘ animals near human settlements as this has hampered efforts in conservation and development linked to wildlife. HWC affects most large carnivores and other species including elephants, pigs crocodiles, rhinos and others.
HWC also often severely impacts on the livilihoods, security and well being of the people from donors who support a wider conservation goals and affects nations who benefit from conservation and development programmes. Therefore conservation strategies for conflict- prone species need to consider not only current scenarios but also anticipate emerging conflicts in order to ensure sustainable coexistence.
Coordinated and collaborative conservation actions are therefore required to deliver meaningful results and allow communities to shift from conflict to coexistence with wildlife. The impact of Human and Wildlife Conflict are often huge, people lose their crops, livestock and property and in most cases their lives. The animals many of them which are already threatened or endangered, are killed in retaliation or to ‘prevent ‘ future conflicts.
The deadly Covid 19 has left wildlife more vulnerable to poaching syndicates which have taken advantage of the laxity of security systems during lockdown to escalate in poaching in Zimbabwe. Zimparks confirms that poaching syndicate which sometimes include some members of the security personnel enlist the services of vulnerable locals to poison the animals with substances like cyanide which has killed elephants in Kariba, Hwange and Guruve.
“ The economic crisis bedevilling Zimbabwe has driven vulnerable local communities sharing boarders with national parks and conservancies into criminal activities. Also villagers are forced into hunting and killing animals for their consumption or to sell as game meat . Locals would cease poaching if they were to receive a sufficient income to meet their needs, and also benefiting from coexisting with wildlife sustainably”, said a Zimparks Official.
Lack of transparency in the manner which the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) operates also fuels poaching because locals have not been deriving any value from protecting animals. Information is never shared with communities on the revenues generated and also how the proceeds were used, thereby eroding all sense of ownership from the people.
Human and Wildlife Conflicts have been spreading all over the country especially in areas with huge populations of wild animals such as Manicaland, Matabeleland North and South and Masvingo provinces. More people are killed by wild animals, but Zimbabwe is turning a blind eye to the problem. The recorded fatalities are mostly victims of dangerous animals as classified by the Parks and Wildlife Act. These are elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles, lions, hippos, leopards and rhinos.