Hyena attacks force farmers to sell livestock

The Chronicle

Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Head of Matabeleland South Office
Prowling hyenas in Gwanda district are forcing some farmers to sell their livestock as human-wildlife conflict rages on.

Farmers are losing livestock to hyenas, resulting in insurmountable losses.

Some farmers at Reata Farm said they had resorted to selling their cattle to avoid disappointment when hyenas pounced on their animals.

“If one of your animals doesn’t come back from the pasture in the evening, you’re almost guaranteed never to see it alive again. Hyenas are attacking our animals which forces us to sell them instead of incurring losses due to their death,” said Mr. Rapulana Ramakgopa.

He said he was now old and could not bear the stress of caring for missing cattle.

“The only way to have peace of mind is to unleash the cattle and make money from them. At least I would have benefited from something, instead of losing my investment to the hyenas,” Mr Ramakgopa said.

Another local farmer, Mr Henry Nare, said there was no point in continuing to raise cattle amid wildlife.

“We have fought a losing battle and there is no other way out than to sell the cattle. It is best to focus on growing crops and raising chickens, rabbits, etc., which are kept safe. Our cattle go missing every couple of days because of the hyenas, so it’s better to get rid of them than fight the tide,” Mr Nare said.

He said maize, sweet potatoes and sorghum are growing well in the area and could be a more viable farming business.

“We appealed to a number of competent authorities to help us, to no avail. It looks like the wildlife problem is here to stay, so the only way to reduce its impact is to sell the livestock and focus on crop production,” Mr Nare said.

A fund of €250,000 is set to be released to help communities living in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTCA) protect their livelihoods as human-wildlife conflict management efforts continue.

The GMTCA encompasses lands in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, the districts of Gwanda and Beitbridge are part of the GMTCA and the surrounding communities depend on livestock and agriculture for their livelihoods.

Competition between game and livestock has intensified, contributing to an escalation in human-wildlife conflict.

The impacts of climate change have also resulted in a significant decrease in crop yields and available grazing areas for livestock, linked to reduced rainfall.

Elephants destroying crops

Gwanda Rural District Council Environment Officer Mr Sijabuliso Masango said the fund focuses on the communities that live around the parks as they are encouraged to conserve wildlife.

“It will be focused on districts 16, 19, 20 and 24 which surround the park. It will cover both Gwanda and Beitbridge. The main beneficiaries are the local community because, on a larger scale, the aim is to address the impact of climate change in and around the parks, focusing on human-wildlife conflicts,” said Mr. Masango.

He said elephants were destroying crops, making farming futile in some areas.

“We have a lot of elephants destroying the crops. People try to cultivate year after year and the elephants come to plunder the crops. So we want to come up with packages to ensure that there is minimum crop loss, minimum loss of human life and minimum loss of infrastructure.

Look at the water infrastructure and all that, the elephants are destroying that. On the other hand there are the hyenas, for the communities that live around the parks there are always problems with hyenas, lions and sometimes hippos. We are trying to solve the problem of human-wildlife conflict and find cushions or shock absorbers for such events,” Mr. Masango said.

He said efforts were being made to change perceptions about wildlife.

“We want to change the way wildlife is perceived in these areas because now you see there is animosity; relations between man and wildlife are strained because for a long time municipalities have been accused of saying that wildlife belongs to municipalities; the wildlife destroyed the crops, the council should pay and all that. We want them to consider wildlife as one of their resources to improve their livelihoods,” Mr. Masango said. – @Yoliswa

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