BULAWAYO-BASED human rights groups have expressed concern over the country's wildlife laws, which they say offer more protection to animals than to human beings, who end up being attacked or killed by them.

This came out at a meeting to discuss climate change and water rights in southern Africa, and trends and opportunities for local researchers and activists.

The meeting was organised by the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights.

It was attended by academics, members of civic society organisations, and Southern Africa Human Rights Watch director Dewa Mavhinga.

Belinda Ncube, a Bulawayo resident, said people were losing several livestock due to human-wildlife conflicts.

"There is a case of a man who was fined US$20 000 for killing a leopard which had attacked his goats. He set a trap for the leopard and killed it. When we come to policy issues, we find that the leopard is more protected than humans," she said.

"The man lost his livestock, but no one speaks about the issue of compensating him for the loss. The laws speak for the leopard, not the man. We need that balance and academic research on the issue."

Ncube was referring to a case which happened in June 2020 where Amos Moyo (79) of Thuthukani Village, which is on the edge of Hwange National Park, was ordered by the courts to compensate the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to the tune of US$20 000 after he trapped and killed a leopard.

"There is evidence that we are not wanton poachers because we live with wildlife, and we still have more than
70 000 elephants," Ncube said, adding that there was need to harmonise environmental management, land reform and compensation laws to protect humans.

Another activist chipped in: "We know the path that the elephants follow whenever they cross from Botswana, but we do not remove the endangered people to protect them from wild animals. Every year, elephants kill people."

Human-wildlife conflicts have been escalating in the country amid reports that they are caused by the scarcity of resources such as water and pastures.