Fatal Crocodile Attacks Heighten Concerns in Zimbabwe’s Mbire District

Recent tragedies underscore ongoing struggle with human-wildlife conflict, prompting calls for sustainable solutions amid rising casualties.

by Adenike Adeodun

In the early days of 2024, tragedy struck the villages of Mbire district in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central province, as two lives were claimed by crocodile attacks. Despite its natural riches, the region grapples with the perilous coexistence between humans and wildlife, a situation exacerbated by recent events.

Pikinini Manyonga, 45, fell victim to a crocodile ambush while fishing in the treacherous waters of the Hunyani River. His passing, along with that of Bhachi Zondiwa, underscores the persistent threat posed by wildlife in the area. Zondiwa, a father of eight, met his demise attempting to cross the flooded Angwa River.

With an annual toll of at least five lives lost to wildlife encounters, the toll on Mbire’s communities is profound. The district, home to 84,000 residents spread across 17 wards under four traditional chiefs, faces a daunting challenge in mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.

Cloudious Majaya, CEO of Mbire Rural District Council, lamented the multifaceted impact of such conflicts, citing food insecurity, livestock predation, and social unrest among the consequences. Livestock farming and agriculture, the backbone of the local economy, bear the brunt of wildlife incursions, leaving families vulnerable to hunger and financial instability.

Amid these challenges, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has stepped in, providing essential equipment valued at US$33,000 to bolster anti-poaching efforts. This support, welcomed by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, is a crucial step towards enhancing wildlife protection and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.

According to a report by Newsday, Olivia Mufute, AWF country director, highlighted the equipment’s role in promoting peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife. At the same time, Majaya stressed the need for community-specific climate change mitigation strategies to safeguard the region’s ecological balance.

Yet, as human encroachment, poaching, and climate change continue to strain wildlife habitats, the toll on human lives remains distressingly high. Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, revealed that 50 people fell victim to wildlife attacks across the country last year alone, with elephants and crocodiles posing the greatest threat.

In response, the Zimbabwean government has taken steps to alleviate the burden on affected communities, approving the creation of a Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund. This initiative aims to provide monetary compensation to victims of wildlife attacks, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the ongoing struggle for coexistence.

As Mbire district mourns its losses and grapples with the aftermath of yet another wildlife tragedy, the call for sustainable solutions grows louder. With concerted efforts from authorities, conservation organisations, and local communities, there remains hope for a future where humans and wildlife can thrive harmoniously.

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