By Judith Sibanda
Hwange, May 16, 2016 – STRAY lions have killed at least 60 cattle, donkeys and goats in Matabeleland North Province since end of last year amid accusations that the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) often ignores distress calls by villagers.
The villagers said they had asked local authorities to urgently fix the perimeter fence around the Hwange National Park and Gwayi conservancies to stop lions from straying into communal areas.
They claimed the lions roamed the villages and killed livestock at night in the kraals.
Chief Dingani Nelukoba told RadioVOP they had also approached officials at Hwange National Park asking them to intervene, as villagers feared that the lions could soon start attacking them.
“Our fear is that, besides killing cattle, donkeys and goats around on which the lives of our people revolves, the lions might also target humans because sometimes they roam freely even during the day,” he said.
“Since last year, almost every day we receive different reports mainly in Mabale, Nabushome Mathuthu and Dopota.
“They attack at night while in kraals even though others (livestock) are being preyed on in the bush during day light.”
The chief said on Saturday two of his neighbour’s goats were killed by stray lions.
“They (Zimparks) keep saying they will come but we feel that is unfair because we have lost a lot while people rely on these animals to brave this drought,” he said.
Meanwhile, villagers in the Woodlands area near Victoria Falls said they have since stopped taking their livestock to the grazing areas, fearing that they would be attacked by lions.
One of the villagers who requested to remain anonymous said: “What pains us the most is that they (Zimparks) become too defensive when one animal is killed and they receive a lot of money for it but how about us who are losing our livestock? Who is going to compensate us?”
In January, one of the wild cats mauled to death a 52-year-old woman before feeding on her corpse near Victoria Falls. The woman was attacked as she tried to scare away the lions that were targeting her cattle at night.
Zimbabwe Conservation Tusk Force chairperson Jonny Rodrigues said the worsening human-animal conflict in the district could be a result of overhunting.
“The animals are being over hunted and that is what causes these animals to dessert the parks and cause the human-animal conflict,” he said.
“It is something that is so hard; I truly feel for the rural folks as they are the worst affected.
“This is why I have been exposing everything that is happening and hence becoming an enemy of the State.
“When I get funding, I promise to help people around wildlife areas where I will sink solar boreholes per village and start bee keeping, which is sustainable.
“For now, the problem should be reported to the lion researchers in Hwange and Panther research teams. They are the ones who must help because they recently received over $2 million for their activities.”
Zimparks spokeswoman Caroline Washaya said the issue was too old to be remain topical.
“Stop looking for old stories. There is nothing like that; only elephants are troublesome in those areas.”