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Do community wildlife conservancies help to reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict: Evidence from Mucheni conservancy in Binga district in Zimbabwe

By Byron Zamasiya, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

Introduction

Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a major problem affecting communities living adjacent to wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas[1]. Scholars define HWC as any instance in which the demands of humans and wild animals overlap, leading to competition for food, space and water and ends up with strained relationships between communities and law-enforcing authorities[2]. The major cause of HWC is population growth which leads to expansion into wildlife areas and increases interactions between humans and wildlife. In other cases, it is factors like the expansion of wildlife population which leads to surpassing of carrying capacity. For instance, the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority reported in 2017 that Zimbabwe’s elephant population had reached 80 000 a figure which exceeded the country’s carrying capacity by 34 000.[3] Through HWC, communities are losing lives, livestock, crops and property[4]. Unfortunately, the current legislation for the management of wildlife resources does not provide for compensation resulting from HWC. Some Rural District councils have responded to the problem of HWC by authorising communities to establish and run Community Wildlife Conservancies (CWC). In these CWCs, the community and the RDC adopt the CAMPFIRE model of sharing revenue from wildlife hunting. In this article, we look at the impact of the Community Wildlife Conservancies (CWCs) on addressing the problem of HWC in communities bordering protected areas. The data for this analysis was obtained from Mucheni CWC’s Ward Resilience committee.

Background

The process of establishing a CWC involves the transfer of appropriate authority from the Rural District Council into the hands of communities. At the end of 2017, the community of Sinasengwe ward in Binga established a Community Wildlife Conservancy with the help of their traditional chief, the local councillor and development partners. The conservancy was established next to Chijalila National Park. This conservancy covers a total area of 40 square km. There is a buffer zone between the community and the conservancy. The community members are allowed to let their cattle in the buffer zone and not the conservancy. Other activities that the community can do include cutting grass for thatching. A total of seven households that were settled in the conservancy were relocated to other areas to pave way for wildlife rearing[5]. This was done through dialogue and conservation education. In 2018, the conservancy applied for a hunting quota through Binga Rural District Council. Their application was approved and the CWC entered into a partnership with Tokoloshe Safaris. The safari operator built a hunting camp and sunk a borehole for the provision of water for wildlife.

Typologies of human-wildlife conflict in Mucheni ward

There are three typologies of HWC in Mucheni ward. These are crop destruction by elephants, killing of cattle and goats by lions and killing of goats and cattle by hyenas. The species in Human-Wildlife conflict in Mucheni are elephants, lions and hyenas. The analysis presented in this section is based on data collected from the Ward Resilience Committee in Mucheni ward.

Table 1: Crop destruction by elephants

Year Hectrage destroyed Period
2016 22.5 Before CWC
2017 48.9 Before CWC
2018 0.4 After CWC
2019 18.4 After CWC

Table 1 presents the hectarage destroyed by elephants before and after the establishment of the CWC. The results show that there was a high level of crop destruction by elephants in both 2016 and 2017 (before CWC) and a sharp decline in crop destruction in 2018 and 2019 (after the establishment of the CWC). These figures show that generally, the establishment of the conservancy led to a decline in the hectarage of the crop that was destroyed.

Table 2: Distribution of cattle and goats killed by lions

Year No. of cattle killed No. of goats killed Period
2016 6 45 Before CWC
2017 59 102 Before CWC
2018 13 32 After CWC
2019 DA DA After CWC

DA-data not available

Table 2 presents the results of the livestock killings by lions. The results show that before the establishment of the CWC, there were high levels of HWC cases perpetrated by lions on cattle and goats. Following the establishment of the CWC, there is a sharp decline in cases of HWC involving the killing of cattle and goats by lions.

Table 3: Distribution of cattle and goats killed by hyenas

Year No. of cattle killed No. of goats killed Period
2016 5 20 Before CWC
2017 15 31 Before CWC
2018 4 12 After CWC
2019 1 3 After CWC

Table 3 presents the results of the livestock that was was lost to HWC caused by Hyenas. The results show that there was a sharp decline in the number of cattle and goats killed by hyenas after the establishment of the CWC. These results show that generally, CWC help to reduce HWC.

What led to a decline in incidences of HWC in Mucheni

A critical question that is raised in this research is whether CWC help to reduce the cases of HWC in communities residing adjacent to protected areas. To address this question, we analyse the trend observed in each of the three typologies and use qualitative information to substantiate the findings.

Our results on the impact of the CWC on HWC show that there is a sharp decline in hectarage of crops destroyed by elephants in Sinasengwe ward following the establishment of the CWC. Communities attributed the decline to the relocation of families from the wildlife corridor during the establishment of the Muchenin CWC. It was observed that households which resided in the wildlife corridor fell victim to crop destruction by elephants. One of the community members had this to say;

“I used to lose my crops to elephants every year. My fields were right in the middle of the wildlife corridor. However, when the conservancy was established, l rarely lose my crops to elephants.”

The other reason that led to a decline in cases of HWC in Sinasengwe is the collaring of lions by Hwange Lion Research. During this project, community members were given high-frequency radios for tracking the movement of predator lions that had been collared. When these lions would approach the Siansengwe ward, community members would blow vuvuzelas to chase them away. Although this strategy is effective, some uncollared lions are still preying on community livestock. One of the community members had this to say;

“The CWC brought relief to this ward through collaring of lions. Lions used to kill a lot of our goats and cattle. Some households no longer own livestock because of these predators. Although the project did not collar all the lions, at least our livestock is safer now.

Another villager added;

“I never knew that a vuvuzela can scare away lions and keep our livestock safe. With the collaring of lions, our livestock is better protected. When we blow the vuvuzelas, the lions run away almost more than 20km away. Now we can at least sleep during the night”

Further, community members alluded the decline in HWC cases to the establishment of Mucheni CWC. The communities highlighted that the Safari operator sunk a borehole in the CWC and prepared pools for the wild animals to drink. As such, the wildlife no longer competes for the same water sources with our livestock. One of the villagers had this to say;

The CWC is a blessing in disguise for this community. Our livestock used to drink water from the streams where the wildlife would drink also. Most households lost a lot of livestock to hyenas and lions at drinking holes. With the CWC, the wildlife is now drinking away from the livestock. This is helping community members to replenish their livestock.

This article concludes that initiatives such as CWC are effective ways of managing HWC for communities leaving adjacent to protected areas. By giving appropriate authorities to communities to manage wildlife resources, the burden of addressing mitigating HWC is transferred to the communities. Under such circumstances, communities will likely adopt strategies that help to minimise HWC.

Recommendations.

This article, therefore, recommends that there is an urgent need for:

  • Review the Parks and Wild Act in Zimbabwe
  • Development of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Policy
  • Rural District Councils to give appropriate authority to communities to manage wildlife resources
  • Promotion of mitigatory strategies such as CWCs.

[1] https://www.newsday.co.zw/2020/04/human-wildlife-conflict-urgent-solution-needed/

[2] Matsekwa et al., 2019. An assessment of human-wildlife conflicts in local communities bordering the western part of Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe. Global Ecology and Conservation

[3] https://www.herald.co.zw/zimbabwes-elephant-population-balloons/

[4] https://www.newzimbabwe.com/drought-ignites-human-wildlife-conflict-in-zimbabwe/

[5] https://www.africahunting.com/threads/mucheni-conservancy.43686/

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