By David Mwanza
Government will next month start consultations towards the establishment of Relief Fund targeting victims of human wildlife conflict, a cabinet minister has said.
The move comes in the wake of nationwide spread of human/wildlife conflict cases.
Speaking to ZANU PF Department of Information on the side-lines of the First Secretary and President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent tour of Coal and Coking Coal Projects in Hwange, the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality, Cde Mangaliso Ndlovu, said the Relief Fund would go a long way in mitigating challenges faced by communities sharing borders with wildlife.
The country currently does not have a clear policy on compensation of victims of human wildlife conflict.
“We don’t have a clear policy on compensation, which is what has been topical even in Parliament. But we are saying maybe let’s have a compensation fund or what we can call a Relief Fund where we prioritise human losses whereby the family is assisted with burial and other expenses.
“Of course you can never compensate life. But we are saying we just want to provide some sort of relief. This will take national consultation. We want people to make their submissions on how this can be handled,” Cde Ndlovu said.
Cde Ndlovu revealed that consultations of the Fund would start this mid-August and should be completed by year end.
“We are working on the framework for consultations. We will be starting consultations in mid-August so that by end of year we will be through,” he said.
The Minister further disclosed that a number of options on how the initiative could be funded were being explored.
“A portion of the fund will be coming from hunting fees. We want to have a percentage going there. We will also see if Treasury could avail additional resources. So it is still a long way to go.We believe from the national outcry we need to do something.
“We are analysing like I said a number of jurisdictions. Those in the know how would know that Namibia did try. They might be moving out of it because it is not sustainable,” he said.
Cde Ndlovu said Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority remain seized with the control of problem animals.
“There are immediate intervention that we do. But we are working also on medium to long term solutions. Immediate is that such problem animal we take them down.
“Once an animal or say a lion start eating domestic animals, be rest assured they will stop to go hunting because this is easier prey they just go in and pounce. So those we take down. We have also established hotlines where communities can contact National Parks to respond to those calls. These are immediate issues.
“The causes of human wildlife conflict are also important to understand. First from us as human beings we continue to encroach into traditional wildlife habitat as we expand our human settlements. We then constrain the animals in terms of their movement. That is where you find the grazers moving into our fields while carnivores moving into our domestic animals and at times into humans as well,” Cde Ndlovu said.
Cde Ndlovu said his ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement was working on erecting fences in problem animal hot spots areas.
“So we need to demarcate properly, we are working with the Ministry of Lands on that. So that we put proper fences. There are areas that are hot spots particularly the Lowveld. That is where we are having serious problems,” said the minister.
Widespread conflicts are common in occupied buffer zones in Hurungwe, Gokwe, Hwange and Mhangura, among other areas, where animal-borne diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and rabies are affecting livestock.
Animal deaths have been reported in Doma (Makonde), Nyamakate (Hurungwe), Sebungwe and Chirisa communities where settlements were established in buffer zones which separate human settlements from animal habitats.
This has resulted in more than 300 deaths from animal attacks as game corridors, which are used by animals to access water sources, are being closed and buffer zones occupied, putting people on collision course with animals.