HUMAN-WILDLIFE conflict is continuing to worsen in Chiadzwa, with villagers living in fear of marauding hyenas whose habitats are being destroyed by mining activity in the area, a natural resource watchdog has said.
Chiadzwa — located some 80 kilometres from the eastern town of Mutare — has been a hive of mining activity since the discovery of diamonds in 2006, which has seen massive clearing of forests and blasting of mountains and the destruction of animal habitats.
While attacks on domestic animals by hyenas have been common, they have increased in the past months, with fatalities being recorded, raising an outcry from the community.
This week, Cosmas Sunguro, president of the Zimbabwe Diamonds Allied Workers’ Union (Zidawu) told The NewsHawks that the conflict has largely been worsened by mining activity, which has seen the clearing of wild animal habitats to pave way for mining activities.
“We have had cases of human-wildlife conflict with others being in Buhera, and just two weeks ago the headman was attacked by a hyena and, most recently, last week we had a hyena that attacked Charles Gamunorwa, a village head aide. What then happened is that when he was trying to assist someone who was being attacked by a hyena, he was eventually killed,” Sunguro told The NewsHawks.
“And that on its own comes as a worrying thing because they have seen that the mining area in this area has taken much of the land which was used by these animals, hence, we have seen now wild animals like the jackals and hyenas coming to attack people in Chiadzwa. While we see that they are attacking human beings, it is unfortunate that we now have a case of loss of human lives.”
He added: “There are two people who were also attacked, and they are still hospitalised. We have always said that it is important that we do our things, we do things holistically. Mining companies submit environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports and outline how they are going to manage wildlife. Unfortunately, they do not follow that.”
Sunguro said the displacements have seen wild animals, particularly hyenas, descending to Chiadzwa in search of food in human.
“They are blasting mountains and land where the hyenas live. They are even taking some reserved forests. That on its own you would find that the animals do not have anywhere to live and no food, so they easily descend into human settlements and start eating goats and people,” Sunguro said.
“It is very unfortunate that there has been loss of lives. I also tried to contact the Vet Department also suggesting that the hyenas have rabies. It is unheard of in our area. We know that hyenas attack domestic animals, but never before have they been so vicious to the extent of killing people.
“I think the best way is for the Parks and Wildlife [Authority] to control the number of hyenas and other animals. The shrinking size of the forests is also causing more conflict. Also, what is important is for the people to avoid fighting the animals. We know that they will be attacking livestock and others, but we should never attack them.”
Contacted for comment, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said while they have been carrying out awareness campaigns, their mandate did not stray into mining.
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, human activity, particularly poaching and trophy has been worsening human and wildlife conflict in north-western Zimbabwe, undermining tourism, as frightful elephants are being driven out of reach of rangers during game drives.
“Trophy hunting is also undermining tourism in that it is driving elephants deep into the forest. If you kill one elephant, then you will drive them away, because no one wants to die, even animals do not want to die,” Farai Maguwu, director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), told The NewsHawks.
“So, when there is gunfire, they [wild animals] will know that there is danger and they will move deep into the forest where they feel they are safe. This is now giving a burden to tour guides when they want to do game drives, they are now struggling to find elephants.
“Some are even saying that Chobe (in northern Botswana) is now a better area for game drives than Hwange and Victoria Falls. And the other thing is that there has also been human-wildlife conflict,” he said.