Ezemvelo says increased fencing will protect big five in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, stop human-animal conflicts

Vehicles can be seen driving past a male and female lion in a nature reserve.

Two lions seen in the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. File Picture: Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 6, 2023

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Durban - Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife says the increased fencing of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi (HiP) Park will boost the protection of the Big Five in the nature reserve, while ensuring that animal and human conflict is avoided.

This week, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Siboniso Duma revealed during a portfolio committee meeting that the national Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) would fund the park’s boundary fence. While some parts of the reserve do have a fence, other parts do not, or it is damaged.

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the funding would go a long way in assisting Ezemvelo to fence a larger portion of the park’s boundary. “It is critical that HiP fence is always intact as this park is the home of the Big Five,” said Mntambo yesterday.

He said new fencing would help reduce the human-wildlife conflict caused by the animals that escaped from the park, and expressed hope that the adjacent communities would protect it and not destroy it during protests. He said they hoped to raise additional funding to strengthen the remaining area.

The move to fence more of the park has been widely welcomed, with the DA describing it as encouraging news.

DA member of the provincial legislature and committee member, Heinz de Boer said the national department had been forced to step in because Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife was unable to fix its fence.

“Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park has been systematically torn apart by poachers and disgruntled community members for years, leading to several human fatalities as lions escaped,” said the MPL, citing several elephants and an estimated 14 lions that have been shot following animal escapes from the reserve.

He said that they were hoping for a swift implementation and sustained maintenance of the new boundary fence to ensure that poachers did not enjoy free reign.

The MPL noted how, on several oversight visits, they had come across missing fencing while in other regions community members had vandalised or burnt hundreds of metres of smart fencing – allowing animals out and poachers in.

De Boer said it was on this basis that there should be efforts to strengthen relations with the local community to ensure the sustainability of the project.

IFP MPL and committee member Otto Kunene expressed delight at the news of the fencing of the park.

“We are very happy to hear that Minister Barbara Creecy’s department has provided funding because on one of our visits we learnt of the fear that the local communities were living with because of wild animals. What we want to see is the process getting under way so that life can go back to normal for the locals,” said Kunene.

He said some of the local communities told of losing livestock that had been eaten by lions.

“For many of these communities, livestock is their life and measure of their wealth, so you can imagine how difficult life has been for them.”

THE MERCURY