VILLAGERS in Matopo and Gwanda are living under a reign of terror as kleptomaniac baboons are wreaking havoc in the mountainous areas.
The primates are said to be in the habit of ambushing people coming from shops and fields and ‘robbing’ them of whatever foodstuff they are carrying.
Addressing mourners at a funeral in Bezha Village, village head Khonzani Mnkandla advised women and children to stop going to the fields as it had become unsafe.
“These baboons are now unafraid of women and children and I urge all the men here not to allow women and children to go to the fields unescorted as these creatures have become dangerous. They are now so problematic to the extent of coming to steal harvested maize in granaries,” he said.
Mnkandla said three young boys were attacked by male baboons while guarding the fields in the early hours of Wednesday morning last week and were rushed to Kumbudzi Clinic for treatment.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo advised villagers to try and live in harmony with the animals.
“We have not received a formal complaint as yet. However, it is common for people in mountainous terrains to experience that conflict with animals such as baboons,” he said.
The Zimparks spokesperson urged communities to report such cases of human-animal conflict in order to get assistance.
“In such areas, there are traditional animal corridors, so sometimes these animals will be using fields as routes to go and drink water or get food from other areas. It then becomes a problem when they start eating people’s farm produce,” said Farawo.
Bezha villagers who spoke to the news crew said they suspected the problem was a result of people who left the area for new settlements.
Sukoluhle Masuku, of Wenlock village said her husband and son had not slept at home for over a week as they had to guard the fields from the menacing baboons.
“When the villages had a lot of people the problem was there but it was not this bad. Now more and more people are deserting reserve homesteads in favour of new resettlements and we are bearing the brunt of these creatures now because we are fewer. If you walk alone from shops or fields, these baboons snatch whatever you are carrying as long as it is food,” she said.
Another resident, Sitheni Maphosa said her son was attacked by baboons armed with logs and tree branches.