Despite the fact that Africa is a large continent with plenty of space, the region's growing human population has encroached on wildlife-rich areas. In recent years, the population of iconic species such as elephants and lions has also increased, culminating in a serious human-wildlife conflict.
Human-wildlife conflict has become a national issue in many African countries. Since 2016, the number of individuals killed in Zimbabwe has increased. Wild animals not only endanger people's lives, but they also destroy livelihoods such as crops and livestock.
In several African countries, there are six animal species that are categorized as dangerous. Buffaloes, elephants, hippos, leopards, lions, and rhinoceros are among these animals.
According to Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management, crocodile and elephant attacks account for the majority of human deaths and injuries in this conflict. So far this year alone, 60 Zimbabwean have been killed by elephants. The country had 72 deaths and 50 injuries in 2021. Elephants and crocodiles were responsible for 90% of the deaths, followed by lions and buffalos.
People frequently shoot or poison lions that kill their cattle or elephants that eat their farms in retaliation. Poaching has also put several animal species in jeopardy. The International Union for Conservation red List recently designated forest and savanna elephants as endangered. Meanwhile, African lions are also suffering from habitat loss.
The rising animal and human populations in Africa are largely to blame for human-wildlife conflict. The increasing human population has resulted in the loss of natural habitat for wildlife, while existing protective measures have increased wildlife numbers.
In most of Africa, human pressure on elephants and lions is already huge, and conflicts are unavoidable. According to Enrico Di Minin, an associate professor at the University of Helsinki, 82 percent of African lion and elephant habitats are close to areas with high human pressure.
Mr. Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe ministry of information permanent secretary, recently stated that Zimbabwe has a carrying capacity of 45 000 elephants but currently has over 90,000. This overpopulation of elephants has increased the likelihood of human-animal contact as well as the likelihood of more people being killed or injured by wild animals.
Phillip Bere, a Zimbabwean wildlife scientist, also stated that Southern Africa’s crocodile population appears to be growing. As a result, the rise in crocodile assaults can only be explained by the fact that crocodile populations are expanding.
Competition for food
Competition for food is also another reason for human and wildlife contact. Crocodiles are attacking humans due to a lack of fish in water bodies and a decrease in the population of small game animals. Serious water shortages, particularly during the dry season, are causing animals to move into regions where people dwell.
Villagers in most African countries, such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, have to choose between facing crocodile attacks and earning a living. In the face of job losses and company closures, locals living along the Zambezi River have little choice but to go and fish in crocodile-infested areas.
Conferences have been held in different African countries on how to solve this problem. Conservation authorities have agreed that erecting high-quality mitigation fences around human settlements is one method for minimizing animal-human conflicts.
Mitigation fences have been found to be beneficial in reducing human-wildlife conflicts in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The method has also helped to reduce cattle loss and agricultural damage in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Mitigation fences, on the other hand, are expensive, and most local farmers cannot afford them. Investing in such barriers using cash from local governments, however, could help save the lives of both locals and wild animals.
Understanding the causes and impacts of human-wildlife conflict, as well as deploying suitable countermeasures, is critical to ensuring the future of the African environment. Governments must do more to address this escalating issue.