Human-wildlife conflict takes centre stage as death toll climbs
WINDHOEK – Discussions on the co-existence of humans and wildlife are again taking centre stage following a number of human deaths in Kavango and Zambezi regions from encounters with wild animals.
This follows the death of an eight-year-old in Nantungu area, a tributary of the Zambezi river, where people and wildlife compete for limited resources. This year two deaths have been reported in the Zambezi Region and three deaths in Kavango.
Last year, no deaths were reported in the Zambezi Region compared to the seven lives that were lost in Kavango due to crocodile attacks. People of the Nantungu area, which is home to over 200 villagers, are heavily dependent on the river for several resources such as water, fishing, washing and irrigating fields as a source of subsistence.
The Kabbe Constituency Councillor, Raphael Mbala, yesterday accused Ministry of Environment and Tourism officials of ignoring the villagers’ request to have the crocs minimised. “These crocodiles are protected and now they are killing people. The ministry told us that we are invading their territory. How can we invade their territory if we are getting water and fish from the river? We are losing lives and cattle at the river,” bemoaned Mbala.
Conflict between people and crocodiles in the area situated in Kabbe constituency has been recognised as a serious problem due to escalating crocodile attacks on humans and livestock. Last week the eight-year-old schoolchild was attacked and killed by a crocodile, following several similar attacks on livestock and domestic animals such as dogs that drink water from the river.
However, Colgar Sikopo, the Director of Parks in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism denied that the ministry said villagers are invading the crocodiles’ territory but rather clarified that human-wildlife conflict cannot completely be eradicated, but only needs proper management.
“Crocodiles live in water and they share with people the same resources. We advise that people must cross rivers with canoes. It is dangerous to cross on foot. Parents and traditional leaders must ensure that children do not go swimming in the river for safety reasons,” Sikopo said.
Additionally, he said, the ministry has put measures in place such as trophy hunting for crocodiles in conservancies in the eastern parts of Zambezi. “We have a number of animals that can be shot through trophy hunting in conservancies. These conservancies have crocodile quotas to utilise as a source of income as well as to minimise crocodiles,” he said.
Sikopo also explained that the ministry has programmes to identify specific areas to put up crocodile enclosures within communities.
Mbala said last week a crocodile caught a cow and fortunately villagers managed to save it from its sharp jaws. “The following day, it caught a dog and again people managed to rescue it from its jaws. The third day, it killed an ox and injured another ox. The fifth time, a crocodile attacked and killed a eight-year-old girl in the morning on her way to school at around 0700. It was only around 15h00 when it emerged with the dead body but escaped when the ministry of environment shot at it. The next day, the girl’s body was found floating some five kilometres away from the scene,” Mbala countered.
In another similar incident, a woman was attacked while she was washing clothes at the river but managed to escape with minor injuries on her arm. “As a councillor, I am not happy that we are told that we are invading their territory. Water is also our livelihood. We fetch water for washing, drinking, cooking and most importantly to fish for our survival. We are not invading anywhere. They need to gun down these problem animals or at least harvest them because they are too big to catch small fish so they feast on livestock and humans. The river does not have big bubble fish (cat fish) or tiger fish for them hence they are preying on humans,” he noted. A crocodile can lay between 200 and 500 eggs per year.
By Albertina Nakale