Villagers uneasy amid frequent elephant invasion in central Tanzania

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Aug. 17 — Villagers in central Tanzania’s
district of Bahi are living in fear following the frequent invasion of wild
elephants, authorities said Wednesday.

In the latest attack, villagers in Chikopelo were the highly affected,
after a herd of nine elephants stormed into their localities, causing
mayhem in the area located 470km from the Tanzania’s commercial capital,
Dar es Salaam. Rachel Chuwa, Bahi District Executive Director confirmed
the report, noting that the wild animals, however, did not cause serious
damage. “But, people are in fear of the new wave of elephant invasion in
their localities, something which wasn’t the case in the past,” the
official said. She, however, said: “I got a report from the villagers who
also said the animals normally come to the village at different times, and
sometimes goes directly to the village dam, the only source of water in the
village, drink water and later disappear.”

According to the official, a week ago another group of elephants were
spotted in the village and later disappeared in the thicket not far from
Chikopelo Primary School. “But, another group of the nine animals
resurfaced again in the area and disappeared. As district authorities,
we’ve informed the national Wildlife Division’s anti-poaching unit (KDU)
for further action. I, therefore, urge villagers to always report such
cases.” Chuwa maintained that the elephants that frequently visit villages
in the district are coming from Ruaha National Park. Experts argue that
after the dramatic loss of many elephants in the past few years to
poaching, the elephants are making a comeback in some areas, leading to
human wildlife conflicts across the east African nation.

In May, this year, four elephants roamed the University of Dodoma campus,
bringing the state-run University to a standstill for the day; Tanzania
National Parks (TANAPA) rangers were called in and the elephants were
eventually scared off. In June, elephants in Arusha destroyed 43 hectares
of crops. A day later two farmers in Singida were killed by a herd of 32
elephants. While human wildlife conflict can result in deaths of human
beings, destruction of crops and homes, likewise wild animals bear the same
brunt as some such as elephants get killed by humans who live in
communities adjacent to protected areas.Lack of buffer space between
protected areas and human settlements is a “call for alarm” likely to leave
“a trail of destruction” as argued by experts.

It is believed that one innovative study is using beehive fences to deter
naturally bee-shy elephants from farms but others believe the best
permanent solution is to remove people from the buffer zones. Experts say
there should be the provision of an effective conservation awareness
education among local people so that they can understand the importance of
wildlife resources in terms of socio-economic, cultural and ecological
aspects. Other ways could be the creation of an effective buffer zone or
provision of compensation and evacuate people from conflict zones.- XINHUA