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Matobo villagers fume as girl (9), animals die in croc attack

Villagers in Matobo District’s Ward 17 are fuming over ‘arrogant’ Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) officials after a crocodile believed to have strayed from the nearby Matopos National Park killed a 9-year-old girl, a donkey and a dog, with the park management said to be not doing much to address the situation.

Human-wildlife conflicts are rife in areas close to national parks and conservancies.

Unamused villagers who spoke to CITE said when the crocodile attacked the donkey and the dog they immediately alerted park officials who promised to come and track it but never did so until a human life was lost on Monday.

They said they feel unfairly treated by parks officials who always fine them when their livestock stray into the park.

One of the villagers, Thethelani Sibanda, who  told CITE the now deceased Shalom Moyo, a pupil at How Mine Primary School on the outskirts of Bulawayo, had visited Silungudzi B village in Matobo when the unfortunate incident happened.

“The child was in the field with others before the attack,” said Sibanda.

“She got out of the field in the company of another with the intention to wash her face and headed to Hovi River. While washing her face, the crocodile grabbed her and dragged her into the water. Her colleague escaped and told others who had remained in the field who also went to the river to look for her but when they could not locate her they went home to notify parents.” 

Sibanda explained further: “We immediately went to the river to look for her. After searching for some time we later located her body floating on the water. We reported the matter to the police.”

Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Loveness Mangena, confirmed the incident which occurred on February 2.

“The deceased is Shalom Moyo aged 9,” said Inspector Mangena.

“She left home in the company of two sisters aged 17 and 7 and went to a field to apply fertiliser. After that they left for Hovi River to wash their hands. That is where the deceased was attacked by the crocodile.”

Sibanda said park officials tried unsuccessfully to shoot the crocodile when they later came to the scene.

Sibanda, who lost his donkey to the reptile recently said: “I went straight to the park to report the case and they said they would come the following day but they did not come. It remained like that and we kept seeing the crocodile.”

The deceased’s father, Gift Moyo, said he was pained by the loss of his daughter.

“I am saddened by the loss of my child which to me is as a result of negligence,” he said.

“If children had gotten into the park, I was going to understand. I am so much pained about my child.”

He said had parks authorities acted in time, disaster could have been averted.

Sibanda said in December they also had a problem of cattle straying into the park, adding it took them 14 days to recover them as park officials were refusing to cooperate.

“It’s unfortunate that a life has been lost,” said Zimparks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo.

“This year has proven to be a bad year when it comes to these crocodile attacks. If you look at my Twitter handle, I think I am tweeting every day that someone has been killed or that someone has been attacked. It is really bad for us. It is unfortunate that lives continue to be lost as a result of the heavy rains that we have been receiving, not mentioning the issue of overpopulation of our animals whether it’s in Tsholotsho, in Binga, Kariba or Chiredzi.”

He said as a result a lot of rains received countrywide, crocodiles were being swept away by flash floods.

“What we are saying to communities is: they must approach every water body with caution,” he said.

“They must be suspicious of every water body even in a village where they have never seen a crocodile. These reptiles are being swept away by these flash floods so at the end of the day almost every water body might have a crocodile.”

He added: “It is also important for people to know that crocodiles live in water; that is their habitat, so it is not always the case that when we receive a report of a crocodile in the water, we eliminate it. Actually, human beings can outpace a crocodile. As big as I am, I can outpace a crocodile. In most of these attacks, people are attacked in water bodies and nowhere else. We don’t have a report where a person was attacked on mainland.”

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