HUMAN–WILDLIFE skirmishes refer to the contact between wild animals and people and the ensuing negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their territory.
This occurs when rising human populations overlay with recognized wildlife land, creating lessening of resources or life to some people and/or wild animals.
These conflicts take many forms ranging from loss of life or injury to humans, and animals both wild and domesticated, to competition for limited resources to loss and dilapidation of land.
Unfortunately Zambia has not been spared from this embodiment as reports of human-wildlife conflicts actually appear to be escalating.
It has become customary to hear of someone being grabbed by a crocodile or eaten by a lion. There have been reports of people being trampled to their deaths by rampaging elephants.
Some Zambians, especially women who go to fetch firewood in the bush have been beaten by Africa’s most dangerous snake, the Black Mamba in apparent territorial wars.
Wounded and unwounded buffaloes have been known to have mercilessly gored people to death, especially hunters and poachers and the list goes on.
So it did not come much as a surprise to learn that residents of Siabulembo and Nakakuyu villages in Mushungu ward of Chirundu are living in fear following the heavy presence of elephants in the area.
One of the concerned residents, Mr. Rex Himambile of Siabulembo village expressed his deep concern especially now that the elephants were even trespassing in their villages.
Mr. Himambile accused some headmen of not taking any action against the beasts, noting that when an elephant or hippo was killed they were the ones in the forefront to claim meat instead of engaging the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to address the situation.
Mushungu ward councilor Ben Munsaka of the same area also reports that the presence of elephants is very serious and quickly appealed to DNPW to move in and bring about sanity.
And Chirundu DNPW senior ranger Shadreck Silumesi who confirmed the presence of a large number of elephants in Chirundu said the animals are actually coming from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Mr. Silumesi said his office suspected that the animals were being disturbed on the other aside and planned to engage wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe to map the way forward.
He said another reason could be due to changes in climate and so the elephants were looking for food especially where people were practicing farming.
Mr. Silumesi advised the members of the public to desist from using dogs to bark at the elephants and making noise because by doing so the animals became agitated and anything could happen. He has also cautioned the public to keep away from the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) water intake where the elephants had camped and said his officers were observing the situation on high alert.
Zambia should therefore not relent in its conflict management strategies to ensure there is win-win atmosphere for both human beings and wild animals.
It should push for systematic research for better management outcomes, such as behaviour alteration and lessening contact.
As human-wildlife conflicts inflict direct, indirect and opportunity costs, the mitigation of human-wildlife conflict is an important issue in the management of biodiversity and protected areas.
Zambia should therefore aim at conflict resolution or management to reduce the potential for human-wildlife conflicts to protect life and security of animal populations.