By Tinashe Mungazi
Residents in Hwange are living in fear of a herd of elephants that invades their homes at night in search of food and water.
The elephants are said to be straying from Sinamatela have been terrorizing residents in Ingagula, Ngumija and Hwange Colliery Company concession areas of No.1 and No.3 villages. Reports of conflict with the jumbos have also been reported in rural communities close to Hwange National Park with experts saying climate change has lead to shortage of food and water in the countries’ parks as droughts have become frequent and severe.
According to residents elephants have been frequenting houses and small water bodies such as ponds destroying fences and fruit trees while endangering human life.
Another said he and people in his neighborhood were forced to turn in early for fear that they might bump into the elephants which kill around 20 people every year in Zimbabwe.
“If you live in areas such as Airport and Catholic Convenant it’s risky to travel after 5pm as an encounter with the elephants is possible given that they will be grazing nearby. Even when driving it’s not safe we have heard of reports of driver you were almost trampled by these animals after bumping into them. Authorities need to act fast before they cause more harm to trees and infrastructure as well as people, ” said Lloyd Ndlovu.
Residents in No. 3 said they were employing homemade tactics of scaring away the elephants such as beating of drum and lighting of fires but the jumbos were now resisting and at time would get agitated.
“Sometimes we end up beating drums and lighting fires in an effort to scare away these elephants but we have noticed that sometimes they resist and charge. This is probably because they are now used to these methods which endangers people’s lives especially when they retaliate. Parks should address this issue as a matter of urgency. We can no longer walk after 5pm out of fear of being trampled by one, ” said Joseph Ncube.
It is understood that a reaction team from Hwange Colliery Company has been assisting in scaring the jumbos back into the bush only for them to return again a few hours later rising fears that Zimparks is dragging its feet.
“We are yet to really get a solution to this problem especially from Parks who are mandated with managing our wildlife. Colliery of late has been the one that reacts to these invasions though Parks rangers have also come later after the show,” said one resident.
Ward 8 councilor, Theresa Matare whose area is a hotspot for the sightings said lives were at stake as the invasions were becoming more frequent.
“Ward 8 is s at the end of the Township and so close to the game so elephants are always here. Last week the Parks guys scared them midnight on Friday. The problem might be its now dry in the game nearby and they are coming for water and food. Elephants comes in the evening and because of their color it’s so difficult to notice it at a distance. Residents are no longer longer safe especially those in South hill, Old Byo Road, Mabhazi, Aerodroom and Airport Road. They come for fruit trees like mangoes and especially water, ” said Clr Matare.
Zimparks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo said the problem of human conflict with elephants was a national problem arguing that overpopulation and shortage of food and water was fueling the issue.
“It’s a national problem that is also taking place across the country from Hwange to Kariba. What we are encouraging residents is to inform us of such so that our reaction teams addresses the problem. The problem could be that they are in search of food and water as we are going through driest period were food is scarce. So animals stray into human settlements in search of these leading to human wildlife conflict. The other problem is that the parks are overpopulated by the elephants. This is why we are on the drive to ensure that our people benefit and get value from our elephants, ” he said.