Ballooning elephants, a threat to Shangano community

By Rutendo Mapfumo


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Marita Ngwenya (65) recalls how she spends sleepless nights guarding her homestead from the
hungry elephants. In her tattered clothes she claps her hands and makes a moooo sounds describing
how her man made sounds can scare away the jumbos.

Ngwenya who is an elderly woman from Shangano has seen it all when it comes to human –and
wildlife conflict. Shangano village is 18km away from Hwange town and is just adjacent to the
Makomo Resources mine which recently resumed its operations.

The greyish vegetation in Shangano village has been broken, a sign that shows that the village has
become a playground for the Jumbos. Elephant dung, both fresh and dry, decorates the ground of
Shangano village; one can mistake the big elephant dung for idle rocks on the ground.

The elephants which move in groups have become a menace for the Shangano community. Both
men, women and their children have to come up with some mechanism to co –exist with the

“It has become routine for me and my family; we do not sleep at night. During the night the big
elephants come over my homesteads in search of food and water.

“The herd of elephants comes in their numbers and recently we saw about 20 elephants and the
baby elephants approaching my homestead and we blew our trumpet but to no avail,” she said.

Community members have adopted traditional methods of scaring the wild animals but it is to no
avail as the elephants are increasing by day.

“We make fire during the night, play drums, make some noise using empty tins but the elephants do
not budge,” explained Ngwenya.

According to the Kavango Zambezi Trans frontier Conservation Area Survey report (Kaza-TFCA), there
has been an increase of elephants in the Kaza from 216 970 in 2016 to 227 900 in 2023.

The increased number of elephants has had an impact in the communities in Hwange district.

Fanuel Shoko, a Shangano village head lamented that the increased number of elephants is affecting
their day to day lives in the community.

“We really appreciate the elephants, but honestly speaking, we do not have peace with these giant
animals; our fields are being destroyed and to make matters worse we are not even benefiting from
the animals,” said Shoko.

He indicated that they have tried to engage with the Hwange Rural District Council and the ZimParks
whenever they challenge elephants but it is to no avail.

“When we tried to engage with the ZimParks, the ZimParks officials referred us to HRDC council who
further ordered not to engage with ZimParks, so it is just confusing for us.

“We know that we are supposed to benefit from the natural resources, of which wildlife is part of
the natural resources, but truthfully speaking we have nothing to write home about when it comes
to elephants,” said the Village head Shoko.

Another Village Head Lawrence Shoko from Shangano appealed to the responsible authorities to
support the communities co-existing with elephants and wild animals as a whole.

Last year, during the Elephant Summit which was held in Hwange cited a need to derive economic
value from thriving elephant herds and management issues.

The Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award Winner who is also a conservationist said the situation of Shangano
community is heartbreaking as the Elephants are a menace for the community.

“Yes, Shangano Community is prone to elephants, and the whole community is more of a corridor to
the elephants. It is hard for the community to co-exist with animals because an elephant is not like a
human being. Therefore by virtue of it not being a human being, cases of human-wildlife conflict are
very high in this community,” explained Gwema.

He appealed to other conservationists to support communities such as Shangano so that they see
the value of wildlife in connection to development.

“For the Shangano community to thrive in the elephant infested zone, as conservationists we need
to support the community, so that the community sees the value of elephants rather than seeing the
elephants as enemies of prosperity,” said Gwema.

Although the ZimParks has signed a historic 25-year agreement to secure a US$50 million
partnership to support wildlife conservation in Hwange National Park, communities near the
Hwange communities continue to cry foul over destruction of homes due to human –wild conflict.

The agreement builds on the successes of the existing five-year partnership between IFAW and
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), mainly focussed on Hwange NP—at
14,651 kilometres².

“We just want to benefit from these wildlife, after all we are the ones who stay with these animals in
the villages, let us benefit in terms of road construction” said Village head Shoko.

However, the communities around the Hwange National continue to suffer in the face of Human
–wildlife conflict.

Meanwhile, Southern African countries are home to approximately 293,000, or 70 percent of Africa’s
elephant population and Zimbabwe gathers the world's largest elephant population. About 70% of
our elephants share boundaries with other countries, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana.

However, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the
movement of elephants in Africa and Asia for commercial and non-commercial purposes, has
maintained a tight rein on the trade in elephants and ivory.

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