Communities living around the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze are in fear of being attacked by buffalo, which on several occassions have broken out and killed a number of people leaving others injured.
The latest victim is Semivumbi Felicien, a 70-year-old resident of Shingiro sector in Musanze District, who succumbed to injuries from a recent buffalo attack.
Unfortunately, such attacks undermine ongoing efforts to promote conservation of wildlife. This is partly due to risks associated with park-protected wildlife that may not only destroy farmers’ crops and take their food, but also lead to local human displacement. The worst scenario is loss of life.
While the government has done significant work to ensure that local communities in protected areas benefit from tourism, more needs to be done to address risks linked to national parks.
Research shows crop raided by wildlife is the biggest risk to communities living near national parks. Yet this also puts human life at risk as many communities spend a lot of time farming in the same place.
And despite the fact that people living near protected areas such as national parks bear higher crop-raiding costs than those living farther away, there are risks including extreme weather conditions in areas such as rain forests as well as disease outbreaks due to wildlife.
To mitigate the risks mentioned above will take a multi-stakeholder approach. Beyond the existing revenue sharing schemes and setting up infrastructure such as local markets that provide alternative sources of income; more must be done to save lives around parks.
Yet, since many animals are protected, past crop-raiding mitigation techniques, such as killing the intruding animal, are now illegal, some local residents resort to setting traps, and putting out poisons to stop crop-raiding animals. This still puts them at risk.
Therefore, it is important that the government goes back to the drawing board with a view of eliminating the risk of death due to wildlife. For instance, research shows participatory risk mapping provides the opportunity to make standardised comparisons across sites, to help identify commonalities and differences, to examine the degree to which conservation management might address some local challenges, and where mitigation techniques might be transferable between different sites or conflict scenarios.
Understanding the nature of local residents’ perceived risks will allow conservation managers to adapt strategies when risk mitigation strategies of local residents might threaten protected wildlife.
Most importantly, raising awareness including reassuring local communities living near national parks is key to restoring confidence that is needed to promote wildlife conservation.
The communities around the park must also be involved in these efforts to ensure that they are aware of risks involved to avoid blame game when the wild animals strike.