Zimbabwe: Human-Wildlife Conflict – Jumbo Kills Two Women


Fungai Lupande, The Herald via AllAfrica

Date Published
What started as a normal Saturday in Bomba and Muchembere villages in Muzarabani turned into a nightmare after two elderly women had a fatal encounter with an enraged elephant.

The two, like any other members of the village, were going about their business, one in her sorghum field and another cutting grass for thatching when they both faced imminent death.

Juliet Nhongo (59) from Bomba Village and Beatrice Chigwenjere (68) of Muchembere Village under Chief Kasekete, met their death at the hands of an elephant.

Narrating events of the day, Chigwenjere’s younger sister Onai Kadondo (49) said she went to the field to cut down sorghum stalks for domestic use, while her sister was in her own field a distance away.
“It was around 8am and after working for a while my hair froze. When I lifted my head I saw an elephant a few metres away. I back-tracked and fell in the nearby river,” she said.

“I managed to flee and upon arriving at home I started looking for my sister because the elephant took off in the direction of her field. I started calling out for her.

“I met someone who told me that she heard my sister screaming for help in her field while the elephant was making noise. I was scared, but the thought of my sister in grave danger gave me strength.”

Despite all odds she rushed to the field where she started searching for her. After a while the sister responded and said she was badly injured.

She found her in a devastating state with a leg severed and gore injuries.

Chigwenjere said to her sister, “I am badly injured and I will not make it please look after my children.”

Onai then called for help to take her to the homestead.

With her last breath Chigwenjere narrated to her brother, Nhema Kapfudzaruva, her last moments and encounter with the elephant.

She said, “I was covered by the sorghum crop and only saw the elephant at close range. The elephant charged at me and I fell down.”

Kapfudzaruva said as a family they have accepted that it is God’s time, but they are living in fear due to the incident.

Chigwenjere is survived by three children and six grandchildren.

On the other hand, a sombre atmosphere engulfed Nhongo’s homestead in Bomba as people gathered to bid farewell.

Her son Chakanetsa Bomba (29) fought back tears as he explained how he went to cut grass with her mother early in the morning.

“We wanted to carry the grass but it was wet and I decided to spread it. I carried part of the grass and came back home. I decided to attend to the livestock,” he said.

“After a long time passed without her returning and I went back to look for her at around 11am. I failed to locate her and I decided to herd cattle. I returned home at around 5pm and she was not home.

“I went back to the spot and saw her sandals and doek strewn in the area. I then saw her body and came back home to alert Noah Kaiboshi and other villagers. Game rangers were contacted and her body was collected around 5am the following day.”

Councillor of Ward 17 Goshen Chavhunga said people are now living in fear.

“Wildlife protection is stationed in Centenary which is far from Muzarabani resulting in failure to attend to incidents on time. Juliet was attacked around 10 am and they responded at around 3pm,” he said.

“If possible they can be kept in a fenced area to minimise destruction of crops and loss of life.”

Mr Bhamros Gweshe who was representing Chief Kasekete appealed to ZimParks officials to remain in the village because people are living in fear and failing to carry out their day-to-day activities.

“People have stopped going to the field or attending to livestock and children will not be attending school. We want the elephant to be eliminated so at least people can be at ease,” he said.

“The game rangers are not putting effort in tracking the animal and we feel like they are protecting animals more than people. When the incidents happened their response was very slow.

“We are not sure that they are willing to eliminate this elephant. The game rangers are not good with emotionally distraught people. They are not communicating with us or giving us updates.”

Chief Kasekete said people are willing to co-exist with wildlife because they bring foreign currency but mechanisms must be put in place to protect people.

He said allegations are that there were two elephants and one was shot dead in Mt Darwin incensing the other.

“We believe that the second elephant was injured because it was walking with its trunk down. The injuries on the deceased were consistent with task goring, they were not lifted up or covered with shrubs,” he said.

“Elephants frequent this area during harvesting time in search of food and we have never reported any human wildlife conflict. Incidents like this require people to consult spirit mediums.

“We expect those responsible with wildlife to keep them protected in fenced areas away from villages. We will have a meeting with all stakeholders to find a solution.” Safari operator Mr George Seremwe said the elephants had strayed in Pfura village in Dotito when a report was made to Bindura district.

He said Mfurudzi Parks responded to the alarm and went to the ground before shooting down one elephant.

“Their reaction was to shoot down the animal and the second elephant sniffed its dead colleague and ran amok. Prior to the shooting I was communicating with the community who indicated that the animals were passing through,” he said.

“I am not sure how they declared it a problem animal. They brought the animal down before we could deploy game rangers to monitor the situation. The young generation lacks awareness of animal behaviour.

“This village in Dotito is the elephant passage and killing them is not the solution.”

Mr Seremwe said Hoya falls under the CAMPFIRE projects and it is not normal for elephants to be seen in the area.

“We had not stationed game rangers in this area because we were concentrating on where animals are. The killer elephant was spotted in Chadereka and we are making efforts to eliminate it.

Mr Seremwe assisted the bereaved families with food and coffins.

Mr Gerald Chigogo from Chigogo village in Dotito where the two elephants were first spotted sent their condolences to the bereaved families.

He said the two animals were spotted Friday morning in the fields before an alarm was sent to ZimParks.

“The animals were not violent and my brother passed them from a distance of 15 meters. No one was chased or attacked but when nine game rangers including two whites arrived they shot one of the animals,” he said.

Mr Brain Mhondorohuma from Njenga village in Dotito who also witnessed the shooting said the remaining elephant returned in the evening and broke down tree branches.