By Takudzwa Changadeya
Residents living in Hwange are calling for mining activities at Hwange national park to be banned as they are disturbing wild animals’ natural habitat and driving them into human settlements, resulting in rampant human-wildlife conflicts in the coal mining town.
Another pushing factor is the drying of water sources in the national park that are causing wild animal to encroach human settlements in search for food and water.
Talking to BustopTV, a Hwange resident said mining activities in the national park are the main causes of human-wildlife conflicts and government should jump in and support their yearn for those mines to be closed and ensure wildlife habitats are not disturbed.
“The only way we can stop this from happening is to have those mining activities in the national park stopped.
“Continuation of mining activities in the national park would also mean acceleration of human-wildlife conflicts,” he said.
Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) chairman Fidelis Chima expressed similar concerns saying:
“Coal mining activities are disturbing wild animals’ natural habitat in Hwange National Park.
“Mining activities in the national park were banned by the government but we also want those close to the national park to be banned as well.
“Water sources in the national park are also drying up and this is driving wild animals such as elephants to encroach into human settlement,” he said.
In a statement, Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) warned its workers, residents, motorists and others about wildlife encounters, mainly at Chaba, South Hill and JKL Areas.
The statement reads: “HCCL Concession proximity to Hwange National Park increases the human-wildlife interactions, therefore, there is a need for people to be on the lookout for wild animals.
“Look out for roaming lions and hyenas.
“These have been spotted around the Chaba and Pits areas.
“Avoid unnecessary movements in high risk areas such as Chaba. Avoid lone walking in identified high risk areas.
Contractors of the company were urged to provide transport for employees to and from work.
“Lions and other predators can be dangerous. Always treat wild animals with respect and give them space.
“Do not chase or threaten them. Use designated roads and avoid shortcuts in heavy foliage areas,” the notice said.
In 2021 and 2022, 66 and 68 people respectively died as a result of human-wildlife conflict across Zimbawe and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) attributed the deaths caused by human-wildlife conflict to the growing human population in the country.
In November 2022, Cabinet allocated funds, a Human-Wildlife Conflict Fund, to compensate families and survivors of human- wildlife conflict as well to fund preventive measures such as providing water in the game parks and enhancing grazing pastures, among others.