By Victoria Falls Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS villagers living near game parks have accused the government of giving a blind eye to their problem after a wave of attacks by wild animals saw an elderly woman being mauled by a lioness recently.
Sarah Tshuma from Woodlands Farm, near the resort town, was killed by the lioness as she stood guard at her cattle kraal on January 9.
Disgruntled villagers from Chief Mvuthu’s area said the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) had not responded to their distress calls after a pride of lions started tormenting their livestock.
The Sisonke villagers said even Tshuma’s death had not jolted Zimparks into action and they now feared that more lives would be lost as the lions remain on the loose.
One of the villagers Lyna Zondo said they were enduring sleepless nights trying to protect their livestock from wild animals.
“Lions and elephants have been stalking people and livestock for the past weeks,” Zondo told Radio VOP.
“We have put up a duty roaster in my family where we take turns to guard our livestock because cases of lions killing cattle and goats in the area have increased in the past few weeks.
“No day passes without a report of a villager losing cattle to the lions and the community has no option but to mobilise security on its own since Zimparks is not coming to our rescue.”
Another villager who preferred to remain anonymous said it was disturbing that Zimparks had not visited the area following Tshuma’s death.
“After Tshuma’s death, Zimparks has not said a word or came back to check on the situation,” said the villager.
“We feel insecure and we fear for our lives especially our young children who walk several kilometres through the bush to get to school.
“Elephants also feed on our crops and we have hardly harvested anything for the past few years. Lions are feeding on our livestock and they are now going after people.”
Zimparks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo was unreachable for comment.
However, Zimbabwe Conservation Trust Force (ZCTF) Johny Rodrigues said wild animals were being driven to attack villagers by the intrusion into the habitat through human settlements.
“People building their own villages have created a problem because the animals are free and do what they want as they are in their territory,” he said.
“You see, the big issue is lots of animals are being stressed and shot near the national parks and these animals are using several ways to try and find a safe place for themselves.”
Rodrigues said the government should have anticipated the problem of human/animal conflict when it resettled people near nature reserves.
“The thing that l believe should have happened before the government allowed these people to settle in that area in an effort to prevent such dangers was to secure the area by putting solar panels and specific pumps far away from people’s homesteads,” he said.
“But sadly nothing like that has been done now the animals are on a revenge and they are coming back.
“That is creating a problem and l know for a fact more and more people are going to get killed together with livestock.
“This is the issue everybody is talking about but who is going to fund it?
“There is lot of mismanagement of funds and animals as well. There are so many questions but nobody get answers.”
A number of people have been killed by wild animals around the Victoria Falls in recent months.
The resort town and surrounding villagers are in between national parks and private animal conservancies.