Elephant Attacks in Zimbabwe Raise Tension Between Conservation, Farming

The elephant population of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe currently stands at 55,000. But park officials say the preserve can only sustain 15,000 elephants.

As a result, the animals are spilling over the unfenced park boundary and increasingly engaging in dangerous interactions with local farmers.

This according to a BBC feature titled, “Zimbabwe’s dilemma over deadly elephant attacks.” The piece chronicles the tension between policymakers at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and subsistence farmers trying to survive on the outskirts of the park.

“You cannot always come up with solutions in air-conditioned buildings,” Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo told the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

 

Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Nambia are some of the few African countries currently pushing for relaxed regulations around the trade of raw ivory and elephant leather. The countries also support the trophy hunting of elephants, arguing that thinning the population in certain areas helps reduce dangerous encounters as well as raises money for community projects.

“We don’t want to need aid, we want the chance to trade so we can fund our programs,” said Farawo.

The article highlights several harrowing encounters between humans and elephants in which humans inevitably come out maimed or killed.

“They couldn’t get to me fully, but one gorged me from my knee to my upper thigh. I thought I was dead,” said farmer Frank Limbo of his brush with the animals.

A solution, or a problem?

Not all African countries have pushed for the relaxation of trophy hunting and ivory trade bans. Others believe that doing so will lead to increased poaching of the entire African elephant population. That includes countries like Mali, Senegal, and Equatorial Guinea.

Photo: Shutterstock

 

“No country should be encouraged to work in isolation,” Jim Nyamu, head of Elephant Neighbors Centre in Kenya, said. Kenya burned its entire ivory stockpile (confiscated from poachers and smugglers) in 2016.

Analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) seems to back Nyamu’s point.

In 1997 and 2008, CITES allowed Botswana, Nambia, and Zimbabwe to sell ivory to Japan and China. A measurable increase in illegal activities followed.

Sovereignty vs. international measures

The entire BBC piece is worth a read, as it delves deeply into nuanced issues.

They include the revenue generated by hunting vs. ecotourism, the right of sovereign nations to have autonomy over their resources, the dire need for the preservation of keystone species like African elephants, and the human cost of increased elephant encounters.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew's essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals. You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).