THE escalating conflict between human beings and elephants in Zambia’s tourism capital, Livingstone, is worrying.
It calls for a permanent solution.
The most affected areas seem to be Zambezi Ward, which includes Zambezi Sawmill residential area.
Recently, the elephants stormed Sawmill Primary School and destroyed crops such as irrigated maize and vegetables in gardens.
The beaSts also damaged part of the perimeter fence.
Last weekend, residents of the ward complained that the rate at which the elephants are straying into their community and destroying their gardens and property was alarming.
The residents said the influx of elephants in the area was causing damage to their property especially concrete fences.
During a public meeting organised by FOEP and GIZ held at Sawmills Primary School last weekend, the residents appealed to the Livingstone City Council to engage the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) to find a solution to the problem.
Fred Mbozwa said people in the area were living in fear for their lives and their property because of the elephants.
The area is close to the Mosi-oa-tunya National Park which has elephants, buffaloes, white rhinos, giraffes, wildebeest, baboons and other animal species.
Elephants are highly nomadic. They cross the Zambezi River from Zimbabwe near a place called Dry Manzi and spend between one and two weeks foraging for food along their corridor.
Around this time of the year, summer, there is less food as most of the vegetation is dry in both countries. Therefore, the elephants wander far and wide in search of food.
They use the same route on their way back to Zimbabwe.
After crossing into that country, at the same spot, they return to Zambia after two or three weeks.
It is during these visits that they stray into residential areas such as Sawmills, Linda Township, David Livingstone College of Education, airport area, Malota and other parts of the resort city.
Unfortunately, the giant mammals are unable to distinguish between crops grown for human consumption and wild vegetation.
To them all is food.
When they find the crops fenced off they regard the fencing as an unnecessary obstacle.
As a result, as the residents have complained, the elephants push or pull down the fences to access the food – especially maize and vegetables.
In the process of protecting their crops the residents sometimes take action that agitates the beasts leading to attacks.
Many human lives have been lost.
Research has shown that elephants do not change their routes or corridors easily. They can maintain the same corridor for as long as over 200 years.
The herds that have been straying into the residential areas in Livingstone have maintained the same corridor their ancestors walked centuries ago, and are not changing any time soon.
The most affected residential areas lie either within or too close to this corridor, which goes up to Kazungula.
It is impossible for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to re-route them because the animals are guided by instinct.
It is for this reason that one of the hotels in Livingstone has been rebuilding one section of its thick concrete fence every year.
The elephants keep pulling the fence down to access the trees within the hotel’s environs.
So, whatever solution stakeholders, including the residents and the department, will come up with should not negatively affect the animals.
We need to preserve these wonderful mammoths because they are a gift to us from God the Creator.
People spend thousands of United States dollars and euros to travel to Zambia from foreign countries to come and watch and appreciate them.
As they return to their countries they leave money behind which goes into the coffers of the government and the private sector as revenue.
A win-win solution is what is needed. It should include a safe and eco-friendly way of managing the movements of the elephants without disrupting their traditional way of life.
Such a solution should protect both human beings and the animals.