The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) says it is saddened by the recent tragic incident at Mpondo Camp in Mpika where villagers of Fulaza village in Musalangu Game Management Area rioted and destroyed the camp after a woman of the same village was killed by an elephant.
And ZAWA has urged people living in Game Management Areas to take extra caution and responsibility as the areas they are living in are primarily reserved for sustainable wildlife development and conservation.
ZAWA Communications and Public Relations Officer Mwila Muliyunda said the rioters looted and burnt down Mpondo Camp after accusing ZAWA officers of negligence and of being responsible for the death of a woman killed by an elephant while she was working in her field.
Ms. Muliyunda explained that the villagers forced ZAWA officers who had gone to repatriate the body of the woman for burial to take the body to the camp where a riot ensued and equipment as well as infrastructure wealth more than K95,000 was destroyed in the process.
She said the officers managed to whisk their families to safety before the riotous mob who burnt down the radio house to prevent officers from calling for back up could descended on them living behind their belongs in their tents which the mob looted before burning their tents
“On May 24, 2014, rioters burnt and looted Pondo Camp, accusing ZAWA officers of being responsible for the death of a resident of Fulaza village in Musalangu Game Management Area, after she was tragically killed by an elephant, while working in her field. ZAWA officers were immediately alerted to assist at the scene, and to facilitate the repatriation of the body to Mpondo Village for burial.
On arrival, a mob of villagers confronted the officers blaming them for her death. They then instructed that the body be taken to Mpondo camp, where a riot was started and the entire camp attacked. To prevent the officers from calling for help,the rioters burnt down the radio room and thereafter targeted the Village Game Scout houses, razing six of them to the ground. ZAWA equipment and personal belongings were looted and stolen.
Fortunately, the Game Scouts quickly managed to get their families out of the camp and hid them, and none of them were hurt.”
Meanwhile Ms. Muliyunda says though people are not prohibited to live in GMAs, communities living in these areas should realize that these lands are primarily meant for sustainable development and conservation of wild life hence should be more responsible and alert as they take care of their families as well as themselves.
“ZAWA is saddened by the loss of life and would like to re-emphasize the importance of communities living in these areas to be constantly cautious, alert and take personal responsibility in protecting themselves and their families.
ZAWA’s role is unique and complex and despite limited resources,our officers have to juggle to protect these communities from dangerous wildlife, while at the same time, ensuring that the animals are protected from human hostility and abuse, although we are not oblivious to cases where animals do stray into nearby communities, causing the frequent human-wildlife encounters.”
Mpondo Camp, which is located in East Musalangu Game Management Area (GMA) is strategically located to tackle the poaching threat in Chama District and on the North-Eastern border of North Luangwa National Park, which is home to Zambia’s only black rhino population.
And Ms Muliyunda said her institution together with its partner the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), which manages North Luangwa National Park,is scouting for over K95000 to replace the infrastructure and equipment which was destroyed during the riot.
11 eleven people have since been arrested and are detained in Mpika remand prison facing criminal charges.
This is contained in a press release released to the media by ZAWA Communications and Public Relations Officer Mwila Muliyunda.