From George Maponga in Masvingo
Twenty people have died after being attacked by wild animals across the country in the first five months of the year, while several others were injured as cases of human-wildlife conflict continue to increase.
Most of the fatalities were recorded in communities near wildlife habitats where animals increasingly come into contact with humans after straying in search of food and water.
In some cases, the animals stray from their habitat because people vandalise the perimeter fence of such areas.
This comes as Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has deployed game rangers to Bikita where lions, elephants and buffaloes, believed to be from Devuli Ranch in the Save Valley Conservancy are on the prowl killing livestock and destroying property. They are also threatening human life and limb.
Zimparks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo yesterday expressed concern over increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict and the loss of life due to such instances.
“In the first five months of this year, from January to May we have already lost 20 lives around the country at the hands of wild animals while a good number were injured and the most dangerous animals have been crocodiles, lions, elephants and buffaloes.”
“We have moved in and made sure that we deal with all the wild animals that have been causing problems because the preservation of human life is always our first priority.”
He said Zimparks rangers were currently on the ground in Bikita following an increase in human/wildlife conflict.
“We have a team of rangers on the ground that is dealing with a pride of lions that has been killing livestock in extreme eastern parts of Devuli Ranch in Save Valley bordering Bikita. We fear these lions can also attack humans,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is that most of our game parks are now overpopulated and this increases the propensity of our wild animals to move in search of scarce food and water.”
Besides lions, buffaloes were also roaming freely in parts of Bikita raising the spectre of foot and mouth outbreak in the district.
Mr Farawo said besides Bikita, other districts bordering Save Valley namely Buhera, Chipinge, Zaka and Chiredzi were also at the mercy of wild animals searching for food and water.