On July 18, 2022, Robert Maroyi of Mapfumo village in Zaka district, Masvingo province, was herding cattle when he almost lost his life due to a hyena clan attack.
He found himself surrounded by three hyenas which severely wounded him and had to be rescued by his wife and son after they heard him groaning in the bush.
On the fateful day, he went for his routine cattle herding chore but later in the afternoon, a clan of marauding hyenas approached his herd and he tried to scare them away.
As he threw stones at the ravenous animals, some clan members scattered but two of them gathered courage and charged at him.
“I ran away and called for help from the top of my voice. When my wife and son who were at a garden nearby came to my rescue I was already badly injured. The hyenas also attacked and badly injured my wife and son,” Maroyi said.
The three victims finally got help when more people from his village came to their rescue and scared away the animals.
The Maroyi family got admitted to Musiso Hospital where they spent months receiving treatment which they could not afford to pay for.
This case represents the many others which are being responded to by the establishment of a human – wildlife conflict relief fund which is meant to render financial assistance to the likes of the Maroyi family.
For years, communities that stay in wildlife-rich areas have had to deal with damages inflicted by animals without much help from authorities.
Last year alone, over 80 people were killed by elephants while hundreds others were left injured.
Speaking during a post cabinet briefing yesterday, Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said the fund will cushion those that are harmed by wild animals.
“Cabinet adopted the establishment of a relief fund to cushion the victims of human-wildlife conflict by way of funeral assistance and an amount paid towards hospitalization and treatment with a set limit. The payments will cover three categories, namely: death, maiming, and injuries,” she said.
She said funding will be mobilized from various programmes associated with wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe such as hunting quotas.
“The Fund is based on a self-financing model where proceeds from hunting and other crowd-funding activities will be mobilized to resource the Fund. These sources include reserving a hunting quota under the CITES granted quota, a levy on hunting revenue accruing to safari operators, Rural District Councils and conservancy owners.
“The financing sources also include, among others, a percentage of wildlife commodities or products that are approved and monitored by Zimparks, crowding conservancies to contribute financially towards human wildlife conflict through donor support programmes, CAMPFIRE proceeds and donations from the public, including funds from foundations set for wildlife conservation.
“Going forward, the fund will be extended to include preventative measures such as providing water in the game parks and enhancing grazing pastures. The fund will also look at associated impacts such as livestock loss and control of wildlife and livestock movements to curtail the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth. Sources of funding will also include Treasury, while local structures will be incorporated into the programme,” Mutsvangwa said.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the fund was a good move which will help lessen the suffering of wildlife attack victims.
“It’s a welcome development which will go a long way in creating harmony in wildlife-rich areas. We appreciate that life is priceless, and once it’s lost, it’s lost for real but we are grateful that communities will be assisted to move on,” he said.
EnviroPress spoke to some residents in wildlife-rich Mbire and Hwange districts who welcomed the move, with others, however, saying they preferred a fully-fledged compensation scheme to enable victims and their families to build better lives rather than be supported to pay for treatment or funeral services only.
“When we heard cabinet’s decision to have a fund for victims of human-wildlife conflict, we were elated. It shows that the government is paying attention to our plight,” said Rudo Nyadzayo of Mbire.
Robert Muleya of Hwange said there was need to upgrade and maintain physical barriers separating national parks, game reserves and conservancies, as well as to make sure there is enough water provision for animals.
“More needs to be done to end this problem because as much as affected persons will benefit from the relief fund, the number of people who are going to be killed or injured will not go down just like that.
“There is need to make sure that all our parks are equipped with enough drinking water for the animals whether through boreholes or dams so that they do not encroach into our villages,” he said.