Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) – Human Elephant Conflict (HEC)

Mayoyo Kutata is lucky to be alive. Last week, the 30-year-old mother of four was herding the family goats in the late afternoon and stopped to chop some wood for the evening cooking. Caught up in the routine of these daily tasks, she didn’t notice the giant shadows.
Too late, she realized that she was surrounded by elephants, and panicked and ran. One of the elephants chased her, knocking her into a bush with a swing of its trunk. The elephant backed off, but turned and charged again. This time she screamed and the sound startled the rest of the herd. Thankfully, they all ran and the charging elephant diverted its course to run with them.
Others have not been so lucky. Big Life has recorded 11 people killed by elephants in the greater Amboseli ecosystem since the start of 2016, including two people killed in 2017 already. This is a tragedy, made even more emotional when the victims are children.
In many cases the community has taken matters into their own hands. Big Life recorded just one elephant poached in our area of operation in 2016, but unfortunately this phenomenal success was tempered by the tragic retaliatory deaths of 19 elephants that happened as a result of these conflicts (many of these were euthanized). This is the biggest future challenge for the elephants of Amboseli – not elephants killed by poachers, but elephants killed by humans in conflict with them.
Violent conflict does nothing for human-elephant relations, already strained due to the economic losses suffered by local farmers losing their crops to elephants. Big Life is doing what we can to help alleviate the pain caused by the loss of human life, working to find employment opportunities for members of the families of the deceased, as well as looking for educational scholarships for the sons and daughters of those who died. Big Life is also working in partnership with all local stakeholders, including government, community, and NGO’s, to put in place rapid response measures, so as to minimize the chances of unnecessary injury or death to both humans and elephants.

Anti Poaching Units to protect Painted dogs

Poaching presents a huge threat to not only painted dogs but also all wildlife in the so-called “buffer zone” surrounding Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Large predators such as lion and hyena are also particularly vulnerable as they often scavenge from snare lines and indeed can be targeted deliberately. As the socioeconomic situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, pressures that drive poaching are escalating. Unemployment levels have reached new heights and with the majority of people in the region depending on erratic rainfalls, simply to survive at a subsistence level, they turn to illegal hunting practises.
The situation is deteriorating rapidly as highlighted by the recent outbreak of poaching with cyanide. Indeed a pack of nine painted dogs were recently found dead at a waterhole poisoned with cyanide. This new threat to carnivores is likely to increase as a result of the use of cyanide because of the scavenging done the carcasses left behind by the cyanide poachers.
The lack of recourse available to Zimbabwe’s Parks & Wildlife Management Authority exacerbates this dire situation. Poachers have enjoyed virtually unrestricted access to areas such as Dete, Ngamo and Tchotcholo, from which they have been able to move freely deep inside Hwange National Park. Poaching snares kill large animals indiscriminately, and the practice is threatening to decimate the small surviving populations of threatened species, many of which are already facing pressures of extinction through habitat destruction and climate change. The recent increase in the use of poisons such as cyanide further complicates the issue and there is dire need for a reliable informant network to be established.