Natalie Muzore, Chronicle Reporter
WILD animals such as elephants and buffaloes are freely roaming the streets in Victoria Falls at night in search of food, putting the lives of residents and tourists at risk.
During the hot season, elephants and buffaloes are a common sight in the city centre.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) reported that 35 people were killed by wild animals since the beginning of this year.
Conservation biologist, Mr Malvern Karidozo of Wildlife Trust said it is not a new phenomenon for wild animals to roam the streets at night during the dry season.
“Infrastructure development such as roads, railways, pipelines and human settlements due to human population increases form barriers to wildlife movements, fragmenting habitats into ever smaller areas. Herds of elephants and buffaloes encounter challenges in terms of food and water during hot season hence they are then attracted to lush grass and sewer ponds in residential areas,” he said.
Mr Karidozo urged people to desist from moving around the city at night.
“In African landscapes where growing human and elephant populations compete over limited resources, for example, human-elephant conflict causes crop loss, and may even result in human injury and death,” he said.
In interviews, residents urged ZimParks to erect a perimeter on the boundary of game parks and residential areas to keep animals at bay.
A resident, Mr Kanjala Nyoni, said several elephants and buffaloes have lately been causing havoc at Courtney Selous by damaging property and crops.
“When elephants find their way into human settlements, they damage homes and other facilities and at times people lose lives, especially during mangoes season. I once saw a person being chased by an elephant, but luckily the person managed to escape,” he said.
“His car was, however, extensively damaged by the jumbo.”
In yet another case of human-wildlife conflict in areas near game parks, a Victoria Falls man died after he was trampled by a stray bull elephant at a local church.
The incident happened in May just after midnight at Zionist Church of Christ in Hlalani Kuhle section in Mkhosana Suburb.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo urged members of the public to avoid walking at night in wildlife areas or disturbing animals habitats.
He said ZimParks is carrying out continuous awareness campaigns to encourage people to co-exist with animals.
Mr Farawo said the long-term solution is to move some of the animals from overpopulated to less populated areas. – @NatalieMuzore