Incidents involving elephants killing people or destroying their crops have accounted for the bulk of cases of human-wildlife conflict reported in Zimbabwe
Harare: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected Zimbabwe’s primary source of funding for the conservation of elephants and other wildlife, resulting in a surge in incidents of human-wildlife conflict.
Incidents involving elephants killing people or destroying their crops have accounted for the bulk of cases of human-wildlife conflict reported in Zimbabwe so far this year, as the country continues to grapple with an overpopulation of the jumbos, according to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS), the Xinhua news agency reported.
Every year on August 12, the World Elephant Day is observed across the world. The day aims to spread awareness about the plight of elephants and identify their importance in the ecosystem.
ZIMPARKS spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said in an interview on Wednesday that his organisation relies heavily on income from tourism to conserve and manage elephants but tourism had been badly affected by the pandemic.
The organisation had received over 1,000 distress calls from affected members of the community since the start of the year, and over the last five years, nearly 400 people have been killed in incidents of human-wildlife conflict. Of the 400 deaths, about 50 percent are due to conflict with elephants, Farawo said. “We have had to revise our budget in some cases by up to 80 percent. We rely on tourism for funding and tourism is as good as dead. We do require funding to fight poaching, for law enforcement and research,” Farawo said. He said that Zimbabwe’s success story in wildlife conservation is inadvertently posing serious challenges, as cases of human-wildlife conflict increase.
Currently, Zimbabwe has a population of over 100,000 elephants against an ecological carrying capacity of 45,000. The jumbos are located in four main ecological zones, and two of the zones suffer from overpopulation.
The four zones are northwest Matabeleland where the country’s biggest game park Hwange is located, southeast Lowveld where the second biggest park Gonarezhou is based, the Sebungwe region and mid-Zambezi in the northern part of the country. Of the four, northwest Matabeleland and southeast Lowveld have an overpopulation of elephants.
Hwange National Park, which is 14,650 square kilometers in geographical size, is a habitat to around 51,000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 15,000 elephants. Gonarezhou has an ecological carrying capacity of 5,000 elephants but is currently accommodating around 13,000 jumbos, Farawo said.