VILLAGERS staying close to the area bordering Bikita and Buhera have reportedly lost 132 cattle to stray lions from Devuli Ranch since last year.
Speaking at a gathering organised by the Church and Civil Society Forum at Mapare Resort Centre in Bikita at the weekend, Buhera Ward 33 headman Luke Hatichinamasikati under Chief Chamusa said villagers were also living in fear of attacks by hyenas, warthogs, buffalos and elephants which were now freely roaming the area after the perimeter fence to the wildlife sanctuary was pulled down.
“Lions and hyenas have been coming out the park and killing livestock. We appeal to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), government, the donor community for assistance to have the wildlife park fenced,” Hatichinamasikati said.
The meeting, organised by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, was meant to help villagers find a lasting solution to political violence and the human-wildlife conflict.
“As villagers, we don’t have the money to fence the park. We are losing our cattle every day. If we kill the lions, we will be arrested by Zimparks, but no action is being made to solve the problem.
“I lost my father to a stray buffalo, and what Zimparks did was to kill it and feed us, but already, life would be lost. We are appealing for financial help to electrically fence the park,” he said.
Devuli Ranch was a cattle ranching farm before independence in 1980 before it was turned into a wildlife sanctuary by the Zanu PF government.
Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba has repeatedly called for government intervention to minimise the human-animal conflicts in the area.
A senior Zimparks officer, Walter Mungoyi, said his organisation was facing transport problems to go around and deal with the hyenas in Buhera South.
Villagers from the politically-polarised area said they were still receiving threats from their political opponents, mainly Zanu PF activists.
Buhera South was a political hotbed in 2008.
Villagers gave harrowing accounts of the violence that characterised the place, but pleaded with Zimparks to incorporate the police in its programmes because the perpetrators of the 2008 violations were still walking scot free.