Saturday, 26 September 2020

TALKING TO A CHARGING ELEPHANTS SAVED MY LIFE

FOR Mr Biggy Shoko, talking to an elephant that had attacked him in Hwange two years ago in his native language, saved his life as the jumbo was already charged and ready to kill him.

Injured and unable to walk, Mr Shoko had no defence as he had been jabbed on his thigh by the elephant and was bleeding profusely. Mr Shoko said the only option was to “talk” to the elephant to spare his life.

“I fell down after tripping on a log and when I opened my eyes, I was staring straight into the elephant’s eyes and it was about to lift me again from the ground and I said to it ‘hey suka lapha, hamba wena’ (go away) and when I wanted to shout for the third time it kept staring at me and it just shook its head and started retreating back to its calf that was close by and it left. That is how I survived,” he said.

Mr Shoko believes the elephant “heard” his plea. As he was now defenceless, vulnerable and desperate to hang on to dear life. He said the jumbo just vanished and he waited for help to arrive. Mr Shoko is one of the many victims of human wildlife conflict within the Hwange National Park caused by the fight for resources between humans and animals.

Like all other victims, Mr Shoko feels he must be compensated or at least have medical expenses covered by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority which caters for the affairs of wildlife in the country. But that has not been the case as the authority has not offered any compensation or medical assistance to victims of attacks of wild animals.

ZimParks spokesman Mr Tinashe Farawo said the organisation was aware of the plight of people affected by wild animals.

“We are in the process of crafting a Human Wildlife Conflict Policy so that we can deal with the problem of conflict in our parks.

We are taking notes from the communities that are affected on what they feel can be done. We are not prescribing what they should do as such but we are working together to come up with solutions,” he said.

Mr Farawo said the long-term solution is to depopulate where they have more animals and populate where they have fewer animals.

“This is not only in Zimbabwe but across the continent. Our animals are overpopulated and they have become a danger unto themselves because they are destroying their habitat,” he said.

Mr Shoko was attacked by an elephant that was with its calf when he was on his way to work at Zambezi Gas in Hwange.

He said the elephant charged at him and he also fled but he was outpaced by the elephant and it lifted him with its trunk. He said wild animals, especially elephants need to be monitored and driven away when they stray into human settlements.

Mr Shoko was hospitalised and took three months to recover from his ordeal while his employer covered medical bills.

“We all hope that when one is injured by wildlife that will have strayed into the communities, they are assisted. We are scared of the jumbos but we stay in the same community and we encounter them while doing various activities. We cannot all run away from this habitat,” he said. Sunday News

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