The government needs to put mitigatory measures in place to resolve the human-wildlife conflict in Chiredzi, with residents adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park, the most affected after the barriers along the park, were vandalised.
BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
This was revealed during a tour of Gonarezhou’s perimeter fence recently. From Chipinda Pools in Chiredzi East constituency to Gonakudzingwa in Chiredzi South where villagers have pulled down the fence at various points to allow their cattle into the park for pasture, while wild animals are, in turn, invading villages destroying crops, killing and maiming people as well as livestock.
Last month, a villager was trampled to death by an elephant, while another was hospitalised and eight cattle were killed by lions.
But villagers from the drought-stricken area remain adamant that the fence be removed to allow their livestock access to the pastures in Gonarezhou and complained that the $2 fine a day being levied by the parks authority on each beast that strays into the park was exorbitant, and questioned why government was prioritising wild animals over their livestock.
“We want national parks to remove their fence because it has encroached into our grazing land; or allow our cattle into the park, because we no longer have any grazing land due to drought. It is better to treat our cattle of foot and mouth than risking our cattle being wiped out by the ravaging drought,” Amari Chauke said.
Chiredzi East legislator Denford Masiya and Callisto Gwanetsa (Chiredzi South) said the fence aimed at preventings human-wildlife conflict. They agreed that a lot needed to be done to educate the community on the importance of the perimeter fence.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said it was unfortunate that villagers were still ignorant of the risks they were exposing themselves to.
“They are doing that at their own peril, because the moment they drive their cattle into those areas, they are exposing them to lions, diseases like foot and mouth and they are creating more problems for themselves because the moment lions realise that there is easy prey out there, they will definitely become victims of their actions,” Farawo said.
“We have been carrying out educational campaigns to discourage villagers from destroying the fence and driving their cattle into those areas, because they risk transmission of diseases and also risk being killed by animals.
“We also need to engage community leaders to educate their villagers on the importance of the fence. We have learnt that lesson from Bikita, because they were stealing the fence. Right now, if you ask them what they want us to do for them, they will definitely tell you that they need a fence, but they are the ones who destroyed that fence in the first place.”