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EMA and the Municipality of Kariba complicit in Kariba's escalating human-wildlife conflict

by Laiton Kandawire a Patsaka Nyaminyami Community Radio correspondent in Kariba
12 Sep 2019 at 22:29hrs | Views
As Kariba mourns for the umpteenth time the death of a victim of Human-Wildlife Conflict, voices have been raised against inaction by wildlife authorities which borders on criminal negligence. Matoundi Butawu, the son of Chief Sahi of Gokwe, will be buried today (Thursday) in Gokwe, his rural home. He was employed by Royal Security as a Security Guard at Nyaminyami FM's Kariba Heights studios.

Residents feel they are being exposed to danger by an inefficient team at the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZNPWMA, otherwise known as ZimParks). This reporter dug deeper and visited the ZimParks Senior Area Manager for Kariba in his offices in the company of wildlife enthusiast and experienced tour operator, Justin Mabhena.  From the meeting it emerged that the problem is multi-sectoral and some crucial areas abetting the problem do not fall under ZimParks.

Inconsiderate and unimaginative town planning by the Municipality of Kariba has led to the decimation of game corridors and build up of concrete jungles. Wildlife no longer has easy access to water for sustenance. This challenge is pronounced from about July when small water pools in the bush have dried up and animals need to access Lake Kariba for water. This period offers improved game viewing for tourists but also increases Human-Wildlife Conflict as game corridors have been decimated for human settlement. In-fill stands are the biggest culprit here. Frustrated and needy, animals become agitated, leading to conflicts with humans.

At the same time indiscriminate wild fires are lit. Fire lighting can be managed but this has become random, endangering wildlife which has to move to safety. Indiscriminate tree cutting has also increased as electricity shortages worsen.

Litter disposal and collection in Kariba is erratic. The Municipality of Kariba does not have enough refuse collection trucks and many at times have their notices announcing truck breakdowns and inability to collect litter. With this, undesignated dumping sites are created. These attract wild animals which come foraging for food. Baboons, monkeys, elephants and zebras are regular guests of these illegal dump sites in the suburbs. The government's environment management agency, EMA, has not paid attention to these illegal dump sites, preferring to prioritize the once-a-month cleaning ritual ordered by the state president. What's worse, after receiving photos of the clean up day, EMA never visits the "cleaned" sites to check. In most instances the cleaned up sites remain dirty and attract baboons. Baboons have since learnt human ways and ZimParks might be compelled to wipe out an entire generation of baboons to re-establish harmony with humans.

EMA has no known viable community programmes in Kariba schools or workplaces. They are one of the missing link in solving the Human-Wildlife Conflict. ZimParks cannot go it alone as this is a multi-sectoral issue. The amount of illegal dump sites in Kariba frequented by wildlife point to an ineffective EMA.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) should also be involved in a programme that highlights the importance of wildlife as it is championing a drive to revive Kariba tourism. It is unfeasible that one can revive Kariba tourism without wildlife as it is at the core of Kariba tourism.

Whilst the ZimParks are expected to spearhead the drive for harmonious co-existence between humans and wildlife, other departments are central to the solutions and implementation thereof. The presence of wildlife in human settlements is a symptom of a bigger issue elsewhere. This needs to be sorted to abet Human-Wildlife Conflict in Kariba.

The next victim of Human-Wildlife Conflict could be anyone of us. There is serious need to work at solving it now and never wait for an unknown tomorrow.

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Source - Laiton Kandawire a Patsaka Nyaminyami Community Radio correspondent in Kariba

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