Attacks on villagers sparks call for crocodile cull

Crocodiles are now killing and maiming so many villagers on the banks of Mucheke River in Makoni district that locals are urging authorities to consider deploying professional hunters to cull the reptiles.

Local councilor for the area, Amen Bungu, told SW Radio Africa’s Hidden Story program that communities that live along the shores of the river have lost count of the number of people who have been attacked by crocodiles.

He said some villagers have raised concerns that crocodile attacks are on the rise in the area because of swelling rural populations encroaching on the reptile’s habitat.

‘In recent years, we have seen an unprecedented increase in crocodile populations along the Mucheke river and the reptiles have even become vicious and daring that they’re attacking some of victims far from the river bed.The national parks needs to consider culling these crocodiles as we are getting increased sightings of these man-eater sized reptiles, a kilometre away from the river,’ Bungu said.

Women and young children are particularly prone to attack by the crocodiles which lurk where inhabitants of the densely populated Matanhire and Chiduku villages do their washing, bathe and fetch water for cooking and drinking. Hundreds of villagers in the area have no access to safe water and are forced to resort to the crocodile-infested river for their water needs.

Bungu told us he knows of a nine year old school boy who had his stomach ripped open by a crocodile and died in October, while two others are currently admitted to Rusape hospital having been seriously injured by crocodiles while fetching water.

‘One of the victims lost an arm, while the other has very deep wounds on his leg and different parts of the body following the attacks. In the last five months alone, seven people have been attacked by crocodiles,’ Bungu said.

Local MDC-T MP Pishai Muchauraya added that another option was to appoint companies operating crocodile farms, to harvest crocodiles from the Mucheke river.

Crocodile farming is big business throughout Africa, including Zimbabwe. Croc eggs are collected in the wild and brought to the farms to be incubated and hatched, and the hatchlings are raised in captivity. The crocodile skins are used in the international luxury skin market.

A team of national parks officials visited the area recently following a request from the MP to look at ways of stopping the attacks.

‘They were in the area for a few days but unfortunately they didn’t kill or capture any crocodiles. They just warned the villagers to be careful when crossing the river, fishing or fetching water,’ Muchauraya said.

The MP said he is also calling upon donor agencies to help fund the construction of a footbridge between Chiduku and Matanhire villages.

‘Villagers from Matanhire have to cross the river everyday to buy groceries and other essentials from shops in Chiduku. With these increased attacks it is high time we constructed a foot bridge over the river, to save lives,’ Muchauraya said. –SW Radio Africa News

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