Sixty Zimbabweans have died from the elephants so far this year as successful pachyderm conservation has led to an increase in conflicts with humans, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
With 100,000 elephants, Zimbabwe has the second largest elephant population in the world, behind Botswana, and approximately a quarter of the elephants in all of Africa.
Unlike in much of the world, where poachers kill animals for their tusks, the country’s elephant population is growing at a rate of 5% annually.
“In some regions, elephants move in numerous herds and devour everything in the fields. They are even now entering the areas of homes, forcing community members to defend themselves, injuring some of the elephants,” government spokesman Nick Mangwana said on Twitter.
“Injured animals become aggressive and uncontrollable,” he said. “The climate between humans and wildlife has turned into something very violent. In that year alone, 60 Zimbabweans lost their lives to elephants and 50 were injured,” he explained.
Mangwana indicated that elephants killed 72 people in 2021.
Elephants walk in Zimbabwe outside the extensive reserves. Population growth and poverty are also forcing rural dwellers to move to regions where they come into conflict with pachyderms.
Tinashe Farawo, from the parks and wildlife management body, warned AFP of a possible “disaster” if the number of elephants is not reduced. “The threat is likely to increase as we approach the dry season, when herds move in search of water and food,” she said.
Farawo said he had deployed rangers to shoot down the most dangerous elephants.
Conservationists argue that Zimbabwe can be home to around 45,000 elephants, which need huge land to graze.
The elephant trade is banned internationally, but the government has begun to consider using contraceptives or hunting licenses to manage the herd.