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As human-wildlife conflicts soar, so do calls for compensation

October 26, 2022
topic:Good Governance
tags:#Zimbabwe, #Human-wildlife conflict, #Africa, #deforestation
by:Cyril Zenda
A rise in cases of human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe is stoking debate on the need for compensation to survivors and families of those killed by wild animals.

The night of 18 July had changed the life of the Muroyi family in the Zaka district of southeastern Zimbabwe, when a woman lost both her hands and her husband almost lost all his fingers after going out to rescue family goats that had been raided by a clan of hyenas.

The attack also left the man’s elderly father severely injured.

"My heart is painful that someone like myself who has been using hands to work on my own... how I would go about my farming activities?" lamented Muchanyara Munodya, a mother of five children, from her hospital bed.

Her husband, Robert, won’t be of much help either in putting food on the table, as he himself had lost all but two of his fingers in the attack.

The couple, whose youngest child was only 18 days when the disaster struck, now faces the prospects of a life of begging, as Zimbabwe has no provision for compensation to victims of human-wildlife conflicts (HWC).

The Muroyis count themselves lucky to have survived to tell their story, as many others were killed in their encounters with wild animals - which become increasingly common.

According to a research conducted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), between 2016 and 2021 HWC cases increased by a magnitude of nearly 300 percent - from 619 to 1598. 

More than 60 people had already been killed in human-wildlife conflicts in Zimbabwe by the end of May this year, the same number as those killed in the whole of 2020. In 2021, at total of 72 lives were lost to HWC.

It is this worrying increase that has bought to the fore the debate over the need for the state to compensate victims of HWC or their surviving family members.

No Compensation (Yet)

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo gave FairPlanet an unequivocal 'No!' when asked if there were any imminent prospects of compensation for HWC victims and survivors.

In the past, Farawo has blamed this current position on the unavailability of an enabling law for such compensation to be paid, and suggested it would require an amendment of the law.

"As it stands, we can’t say someone has lost a relative or some crops and we can give them that much. Our Parks and Wildlife Management Act has no such provision," Farawo said. "Painful as it may seem but that is the reality and we are pushing for a Parks and Wildlife Act which addresses all that."

Communities Push For Compensation

Conservation biologist Dr Moreangels Mbizah attributed the growing cases of HWC to a number of factors that range from population increase of both humans and wildlife, the effects of climate change, deforestation, illegal cutting of grass and a general mismanagement of natural resources.

"In Zimbabwe, there is no provision for compensation in our wildlife policy, but it’s something that the communities around the country are pushing for," Dr Mbizah, the executive director of Wildlife Conservation, told FairPlanet. 

"They feel that they should at least get some form of compensation or consolation because the costs that they incur from living with wildlife are huge."

Dr Mbizah added that compensation or consolation would go a long way in alleviating some of the problems that affected families face, especially when those killed or injured are breadwinners.

She further said that establishing a compensation mechanism would also decrease the chances of retaliatory killing of wildlife by communities.

"There is need for us to look into issues of compensation and learn from examples where it has worked on the continent, like in Namibia, Botswana and Kenya."

Archaic law Needs Repeal

Fauna and Flora Zimbabwe director Fidelicy Nyamukondiwa also feels that the law has to be amended so that compensation would be paid.

"There must be compensation provisions in the Parks and Wildlife Act. The Act is archaic and its repeal is long overdue," Nyamukondiwa wrote to FairPlanet. "The fact that the law doesn’t factor in [compensation] causes people to take the law into their own hands."

Ishmael Chaukura, the chairperson Community CAMPFIRE Association of Zimbabwe told FairPlanet that he is also in support of payment of compensation to victims of HWC.

"If we look at the deaths cases and injuries every year, the statistics are shocking," Chaukura said.

"Survivors [and families of victims] often feel like they are neglected because the law is silent about HWC.

"My opinion is that when we talk about co-existence, we need to strike a balance between local communities living with wildlife and bear the costs."

Botswana's Compensation System

Vice chairman of Botswana’s Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT) Nchunga Nchunga confirmed that his country pays some compensation for injury and or loss of life as well as for economic loses.

"Human-wildlife conflict is one of the key problems that Botswana is trying very much to address," Nchunga said. "The formation of conservation trusts in wildlife prone areas are mainly to address human-wildlife conflict." 

He, however, could not provide any compensation amounts, saying such figures are usually confidential between the government and those affected.

"Of course there is compensation given to the people to recover for wildlife damage either to their crops, livestock and even loss of human life," he said. "With the damage towards livestock there are [killings by] certain species that are compensated, such as [by] lions and leopards.

"If it is damage to crop fields they will measure the area [destroyed] in order to determine how much one has to be compensated per hectare."

Zambia grapples with similar issues

A similar problem exists in neighbouring Zambia, where as many as 60 people are killed by wildlife annually.

In 2018, Zambia’s then tourism minister Charles Banda told Parliament that 63 lives had been lost in 2017.

"In the last six years, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife received an average of 4,490 reports of human animal conflicts with an average of forty four people killed and 140 problem wild animals being killed as a control measure," Banda said.

"During the same period, incidences of human animal conflicts, numbers of people killed by wild animals and numbers of killed problem wild animals show increasing trends.

"These statistics indicate the human animal conflicts are, indeed, a huge problem of concern to the Ministry of Tourism and Art."

Image by Marcus Löfvenberg.

Article written by:
CZ Photo
Cyril Zenda
Muchanyara Munodya lost both her hands during a clash with a clan of hyenas.
© Cyril Zenda
Muchanyara Munodya lost both her hands during a clash with a clan of hyenas.
Embed from Getty Images
Victims often face a life of begging, as Zimbabwe has no provision for compensation to victims of human-wildlife conflict (HWC).
Embed from Getty Images
In 2021, at total of 72 lives were lost to wildlife attacks in Zimbabwe.
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