Marauding lions have wreaked havoc in Mashumbi Pools where they have mauled to death five people, including a hunter, and and have also killed scores of livestock, NewsDay has learnt.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo confirmed that the felines had become a menace, saying the authority had this year received reports of four deaths.
Villagers said parks rangers from the area had developed cold feet in dealing with wild animals after a professional hunter was killed by the lions in January this year. The hunter had been engaged by the Mbire Rural District Council to kill the man-eaters.
A farmer from the area, Christopher Mashiri, said farmers had lost over 50 cattle and numerous goats to the lions this year alone.
“We are now living in fear because of these lions,” Mashiri said. “They started being a problem last year when they killed several people. A safari operator was then brought to the area and he shot dead five of them. There was relative peace after that.”
“But this year, a pride of 14 lions invaded the area and has been causing havoc. They are killing cattle and goats daily. They are actually going into the kraals to make their kill and this has resulted in farmers losing a lot of livestock. These are the lions that killed the council’s professional hunter.
“Five people have been killed by these lions this year so far.
“Ever since the hunter was killed, no one has dared hunt down the lions and they are roaming the area freely,” he said.
They are terrorising Shange, Kanyemba, Keep, Chitsungo and Angwa, among other areas along the Dande Valley.
Washaya-Moyo, however, said the authority was reacting to reports and had killed 11 lions after receiving reports — through the Problem Animal Control Unit — that the lions had killed domesticated animals.
She said the rampaging lions were either old or had deformities, which made it difficult for them to hunt wild animals and were therefore opting for humans and domestic animals.
“In January this year four people were killed. In cases where human life is threatened, the authority identifies the animal(s) by setting bait . .
“.As we speak, there is a team on standby at Mushumbi waiting to react to situations of human-wildlife conflict. Over and above this, parks is in the process of setting up a speedy response mechanism in the communities as well as urging them to stay indoors, especially at night,” she said.
“Investigations into the lions that were killed reveal that they either had dental problems, had aged or were partially blind, causing them difficulties in hunting normal prey.
“It has further been proven scientifically that when lions’ prey base shrinks and when there is lack of habitats they change their hunting behaviour.
“It is also suspected that the lions causing havoc in Mushumbi are from neighboring countries.”