TOURISM Minister Rodney Sikumba says the increase in human- wildlife conflicts is largely because of the expansion of human settlements into protected areas.
Mr Sikumba said the expansion of human settlements into protected areas were in form of encroachment, blockage of wildlife corridors, introduction of livestock in Game Management Areas (GMAS) and the increase in human population.
Speaking when he delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament on the human-wildlife conflicts in Shang’ombo and Chama North constituencies yesterday, Mr Sikumba said there was an increase in incidents of human- animal conflict currently in comparison to previous years.
“Human-wildlife conflicts over time immemorial continued commanding large public outcries and bad publicity from the public. These phenomena have been reflected in the number of reports received and attended to by the ministry,” Mr Sikumba said.
He said Shang’ombo Constituency was in the West Zambezi GMA, which was an important elephant migration route connecting the Luenge- Luiana National Park in Angola and the Sioma Ngwezi National Park in Zambia.
Mr Sikumba said increased support in law enforcement and sustained community sensitisations and extension had led to a steady increase in elephant population in Shang’ombo and surrounding areas.
The minister said the large herds of elephants which had been crossing into Zambia from Angola, Namibia and Botswana seemed to have found a safe environment in that area. “Thus, the migrating elephants that have been utilising this area for feeding have in some cases, been a nuisance to the people and their crop fields.
“Nonetheless, Madam Speaker, I would wish to assure the people of Shang’ombo Constituency, that the ministry has deployed adequate personnel in this operational area in a bid to create a safe haven for both wildlife and the people,” he said.
Mr Sikumba said officers from Sioma Ngwezi management unit were working with the Shang’ombo District Commissioner’s office on how best to assist members of the public in the affected areas.
He said his ministry had been deploying officers in affected areas to help scare elephants and also educate and sensitise members of communities on co- existence with wild animals.
The minister said as a long term measure of ensuring safety for the communities in Shang’ombo, the ministry was opening an office in the district to have officers permanently stationed there.
On concerns of property and crop fields destruction in Chama North Constituency, Mr Sikumba said measures were being undertaken to reduce the human- wildlife conflicts including training of community members as blasters, development
of participatory village land use plans and data collection.
Other measures were the deployment of wildlife police officers and supporting the communities with early maturing crop varieties and alternative livelihood activities like gardening, poultry, goat rearing and beekeeping.
Mr Sikumba said to permanently address the problem, there was a need to look at the major contributing factors and remove all illegal settlements from wildlife habitats and corridors.
The minister also said that a census by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife of animals like elephants and crocodiles would lead to cropping, especially those that were identified to be terrorising humans in some localities.