From Stanely Mushava in Buhera
Villagers in Buhera South are living in fear after five people from the area were attacked by a hyena on Tuesday afternoon, leaving some of them seriously injured. This has since forced the villagers to stop walking at night. Shops and bottle stores in the area are being forced to close early as customers rush home in fear.
Villagers and community leaders are also taking other measures to ensure that people are protected from attacks.
“People are being forced to walk during the night, especially when they want to catch buses that leave this area for Mutare and other places,” said Muzokomba police officer-in-charge Inspector Gorden Sibanda.
“But we have said that must stop. The buses will from now onwards leave at 6am. Apart from that, we are also holding awareness campaigns to alert people to the dangers posed by the hyenas.”
Hyenas have always roamed the swathes of land in this arid district, but they rarely attack humans, although each time they do so, the results have been fatal.
The hyenas were mainly targeting cattle and goats, but the incident on Tuesday left the villagers with the reality that they now pose a serious danger to humans.
It seems there is now competition for survival between the humans and the wild animals in the area. Ward 27 councillor Cde Charles Mukanwa said the tiff could have emanated from people who are increasingly encroaching into areas that are usually dominated by the wild animals as pressure for land increases. “We used to hear hyenas laughing from a distance and everyone knew that they would not travel all that way to attack humans,” he said. “But now the situation is differrent. We have people who are building their houses where the wild animals used to dominate.”
Clr Mukanwa said the arid conditions of Buhera made both the wild animals and humans desperate for survival.
“The hyenas are increasingly moving close to the homesteads as their prey migrates to other areas because of lack of water sources and food,” he said.
“Humans are also moving to areas with virgin land in a bid to farm on fresh gound, in the process clashing with the wild animals which live in the forests.” In September last year, a six-year-old girl was mauled to death, while three men were seriously injured after being attacked by a hyena which terrorised villagers in Buhera.
After killing the girl, the hyena attacked her father who attempted to rescue her before attacking two more men the following day.
It seems the hyenas are using the same modus opendi of targeting young people first and then after that go after the others.
The areas that have been mostly affected by the hyena attacks are Mutiusinazita, Muzokomba and Birchenough. In the attack on Tuesday, which took the villagers by surprise, the hyena went to the extent of attacking people sitting in their huts. Veterinary Services official in Buhera Mr Maxwell Masocha said there were signs that the hyena had rabies. “If this hyena had rabies, then it means there are many more like that in this area,” he said. “We urge people to be careful and treat every hyena they see to be infected with rabies.
“We urge people to also vaccinate their dogs just in case they would have made contact with the hyenas. In the meantime, the latest attack has jostled us and we are going to increase our awareness campaigns.”
The plight of the villagers is worsened by that the district is stalked by hunger as they failed to realise meaningful harvests last season. The villagers are now surviving on baobab seeds which they use to make porridge, but for them to have them they have to venture into the wild where they become easy prey for the hyenas.
“We are now afraid of collecting the baobab seeds since we may be attacked by the hyenas,” said Mr Clever Mangore (52). “Many people in this area are surviving on baobab seed porridge and if the situation continues we will soon see people starving.”
Another villager Mr Eliot Munyavi (53) said the Government should bring in food aid as soon as possible or risk people starving.
Buhera South legislator Cde Joseph Chinotimba said the constituency required at least 30 tonnes of maize per month to cater for everybody.
“At the moment I only have six tonnes that are enough for only two wards,” he said. “People do not have anywhere to get the food and this is forcing them to venture into the bushes to scavenge for food and in the process disturb the hyenas.”
Cde Chinotimba said the hunger stalking the villagers also forced them to walk during the night coming from the markets where they try to make ends meet by selling different wares.
Some superstitious villagers are blaming the hyena attack on witchcraft. Department of Veterinary Services director Dr Josphat Nyika said the behaviour of the hyena was a sign that it had rabies.
“There are 99 percent chances that the hyenas could be rabid as one of the most prominent symptoms of a rabid animal is loss of fear for humans or other animals,” he said. “Rabid animals are aggressive. They attack without provocation and they change behaviour.
“Normally wild animals always run away from people. It is unfortunate that when the Veterinary Services Department team arrived in Buhera, the hyena had been burnt to ashes.”
Noria Musapukira, the 10-year-old girl who was seriously injured in the attack was by yesterday still admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital in a critical condition.
The Grade 5 pupil at Muchuwa Primary School had her right eye plucked out, right buttock mauled and has bruises all over her body.
Cde Chinotimba said he was assisting the girl through buying blood and was also visiting the other victims at Mutare General Hospital and Murambinda District Hospital where they are admitted.
“We are in the process of putting adequate measures to ensure that the people will not be attacked by these hyenas as most villagers are now living in fear,” he said.
Cde Chinotimba said they were going to hold meetings with the leadership in the area, police and officials from Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe to map the way forward.