Councillors aghast at hippos, jumbos threat

13May 2019
Friday Simbaya
The Guardian
Councillors aghast at hippos, jumbos threat

RESIDENTS of villages neighbouring the Mtera Dam and Ruaha National Park in Iringa Region have called on relevant authorities to control large numbers of hippopotamus and elephants that have reportedly killed seven people in one month.

Speaking at a council meeting over the weekend, councillors from various wards in the surrounding areas of the dam and the park said hippos and elephants have become a big concern because, apart from attacking and killing people, the animals destroy crops in the fields.

Migoli Ward Councillor Majaliwa Lyaki (Chadema) said that attacks in the Mtera dam by hippos have increased such that the government should reduce their number by harvesting them.

He said it has been a long time that these animals were harvested and thus become a threat to the lives of fishermen who are afraid to go to the dam, as the large animals can strike at any moment.

Lyaki said that people near Mtera dam make their lives from it but now they do not conduct fishing activities, implying that Iringa district authorities stand to loses significant amounts of revenue.

For six years the government has not conducted a species census at Mtera dam, thus failing to notice a problem preoccupying the area’s inhabitants, he said, noting that the residents are key economic stakeholders as they pay income tax to the council.

If the hippos are not going to be harvested to reduce their number it will affect lives and revenue collection, he emphasized.

 Special Seats Councillor for Isimani division, Yuster Kinyaga (CCM) said that hippos have been attacking fishermen.

So the government needs to come to their help and harvest massive mammals which have killed seven people in the past month, she said.

Other wild animals causing havoc in Migoli Ward include elephants from the Ruaha National Park, invading the villages in big groups. "There are too many of them around Mtera dam,” the councillor underlined.

She reminded the district authorities that President Dr John Magufuli directed the authorities to assure those hippos are harvested to reduce deaths of fishermen working in the dam.

"When he came to Iringa I told the president about the hippos and he ordered authorities to deal with the issue. But since the president left so far seven people have been killed, because the authorities have done nothing on the president's directive," the councillor noted.

Authorities need to ensure they harvest hippos to reduce the deaths of fishermen that cause many women to become widows.

"Those who work for fishing are men who are usually married, so these dangerous mammals cause families to disrupt and women to live as widows," she further noted.

  Ilolo Mpya councillor Fundi Mihayo said that elephants have done damage to the ward population as a large group of elephants routinely damage crops of nearby residents.

"This year the large group of elephants we do not know where they are coming from but they destroyed crops...," said Mihayo

Elephants also make it hard for pupils to go to school for fear of meeting the huge beasts lurking in the vicinity, he said.

Footpaths that are used by pupils are frequented by elephants as well, he pointed out.

 Since the sdtart of the year elephants have damaged crops in Ilolo Mpya, Nzihi and Kiwere wards, the councillor said, elaborating that people need to know that elephants are found around the area.

Responding to the complaints the District Land and Natural Resources Officer for Iringa, Evidence Machenje said the department was working on the matter, while advising residents to take precautions as regards the dangerous animals.

"We are indeed aware of the impact of the hippos but the council does not have the authority to harvest those animals. So we must contact the relevant authorities to come and harvest them," he said.

In addition, Machenje reminded the meeting that despite the damage that elephants and hippos have caused, everything has to be done in accordance with laws and regulations of the country, so people have to be patient.

Iringa District Council chairperson Stephen Mhapa directed the District Executive Director, Robert Masunya to ensure that those animals don't cause problems, to save the lives of the surrounding residents.

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