Colonisation and wildlife: Part Three…human-wildlife conflict escalates

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ZIMBABWE was one of the African nations with a leading population of wildlife.
These included elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, buffalos and lions, among others.
With the turn of the millennium, Zimbabwe’s wildlife population has sharply decreased.
This is owed to poaching by foreigners.
In 2000, the Land Reform Programme was launched.
Many blacks started re-occupying lands that were formerly owned by settler-whites.
This was a necessary step taken to right historical wrongs and correct wealth imbalances pertaining to race.
Many of these lands were not used but were left as forests to stand as reserves for the future generations of the white settlers.
Unfortunately, the Land Reform Programme was not coupled with a wildlife conservation programme.
When blacks entered these forests, they ran into much wildlife which they indiscriminately hunted for meat.
This led much of Zimbabwe’s wildlife to escape, most towards the north and some towards the south.
I would not have believed it if I had not seen it myself, but even unlikely animals such as monkeys, pythons and leopards were caught and eaten by some people after the land resettlement began.
This has cost us a large number of animals that migrated to neighbouring lands.
Animals do not want to live where humans live.
They enjoy the tranquility of nature and do not tolerate machines, fumes, manmade sounds and activity.
They will only be seen in such places deep in the middle of the night and by daytime they would have retreated.
The grazers and browsers follow grasslands and large water bodies.
These grazers and browsers are followed by carnivores such as cheetahs, leopards and lions.
Wildlife thus rarely clashes with humans unless humans also choose to share the same resources such as rivers. This explains the close interaction between humans and wildlife in places like Kariva (Kariba) and Mosi-oa-tunya (Victoria Falls). The cause of this rare interaction is the Zambezi River.
In olden times, people knew where and when to see certain animals during the night.
Elephants bathed and played in the water a few hours before dawn.
Foxes began calling at sundown and the hippo would scout the land for food throughout the night.
Understanding the mannerisms and timetables of the animals minimised the risk of confrontation and allowed for peaceful cohabitation.
The ‘chamuka inyama’ attitude that we have now is not good for the environment.
Accidents have occurred on the roads after drivers have tried unsuccessfully to hit wild animals on the road.
Antelope of all forms are now afraid of humans and only gaze at us from a distance because diet wise, we have become carnivorous and our thoughts predatory.
There were no refrigerators and meat was eaten fresh after slaughter then dried if any remained.
Livestock was kept to conserve wealth, which would be used to trade or when marrying.
Livestock was also a food store which sustained life in times of drought and famine.
Besides this, humans in southern Africa were omnivorous to a small extent and for the most part vegetarian.
This lifestyle is still evident in rural areas.
Besides the hen that is killed to welcome a guest, no meat would be eaten for months and such is the norm for many rural folk.
This meatless diet is wrongly associated with poverty, both in the city and the country.
It is a healthier and more traditional way of eating.
Since meat is eaten rarely in such areas, activities such as gathering seasonal mushrooms, wild vegetables and indigenous fruits are very much the norm.
Hunting exclusively for meat is also common and in no way threatens the population of animals because it is not industrialised and is only practised by a few skilled individuals.
In places like India, where meat is not eaten as much and people are not so predatory against animals, one can find antelope approaching humans and being hand-fed by little children.
These animals flee from tigers but treat humans like fellow plant-eaters because they rarely attack them.
This is an admirable relationship between humans and animals that Africans must learn to emulate.
The restoration of such human-animal relationships cannot be achieved if European settlers continue facilitating the Western world with hunting grounds on our land.
During the Chimurenga wars, wildlife was known to assist the fighters in the forests.
Monkeys would signal guerillas when whites were approaching their hiding place.
In some cases, serpents would block fighters from taking a road that they would later find out was riddled with traps or ambushes.
Long ago, African leaders like Hannibal and Theodore II of Ethiopia used large beasts like elephants and lions respectively in times of war.
This shows that wildlife was not as alienated from humans as is the case now.
Even the taming of dogs and cats is testament to how close humans used to be with these formerly wild but now domesticated animals.
Game farming without trophy hunting is a good way of conserving wildlife.
A game farm is a true wild animal reserve where game is bred and kept in a large fenced and protected area.
This is not the same with the hunting grounds that we discussed in the last part of the article.
Rather, these are programmes that strictly focus on raising the numbers of wildlife and releasing them back into the wild.
It is also a good way of increasing the numbers of extinct animals.
In China, the panda is protected and several measures are being taken to raise their numbers.
Hunting or trading in pandas is illegal.
Humans simply contribute in ensuring that the pandas are healthy and assist them in copulating and conceiving their young.
Otherwise they are left in their natural environment among bamboo trees or places that closely mimic their habitat.
The pandas are not allowed to leave China and can only be adopted when bought, but cannot be physically taken.
This means the buyer is recognised as the guardian of the panda but cannot have custody of it.
One such buyer is retired boxer Floyd Mayweather who adopted a panda in 2017 for a substantial amount of money.
The money will be used to help rear the pandas.
This is an example of how wildlife numbers can be increased in Africa.
It is time people stop making a sport out of killing animals.
The Americans have depopulated the bison in the West and now wish to depopulate the animals in Africa.
It is up to the governments of African nations to shun such acts and begin to play a protective role towards the wildlife that we co-habitate with.
Otherwise it is just a matter of time before indigenous animals become extinct, for example the white rhino.

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