Zimbabwe: Terror In Masvingo As Lions Prowl

Four lions that have escaped from captivity in Masvingo province in Zimbabwe are terrorising villagers and farm workers in the areas, including schoolchildren who have to walk through dense forest to get to a farm school. One is known to be especially aggressive towards humans. All efforts by National Parks to recapture the lions have so far failed, even though one of them was spotted sleeping by the side of a highway day before yesterday



Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 September 2009

Villagers near Kyle Dam in Masvingo, the ancient seat of Zimbabwe's civilisation, are living in terror after four lions escaped from a nearby breeding project run by Ron Sparrow.

Amongst the escaped lions is one that even Sparrow himself says is "wild". Nicknamed "Mawaya" - meaning (loosely translated) - "mad"- the lion has an unhealed wound on its neck. While he was in custody, Mawaya was very aggresive towards humans, as he had been captured as a full-grown lion.

Villagers are now even more distraught after a farmer in the area spotted one of the escaped lions sleeping by the side of the road along the Masvingo-Mutare highway. He summoned National Parks, but by the time they arrived, the lion has vanished into the forest.

The lions are thought not to have strayed far from Beaully Farm in the area, which is of concern because schoolchildren walk through dense forest to get to the farm school from far away.

Despite Mugabe's much-vaunted and largely successful education programme, schools in the villages and rural areas of Zimbabwe are usually far away from where children live because of the nature of Zimbabwe's rural landscape, which is sparsely populated.

I remember only last month Dr Makoni telling me about school children near his farm who told him that they have to get up at 4:30 in the morning every day and walk to school, where they only arrive at 11:00a.m.

The teachers told him that by the time the kids get there, they are so tired that most of them fall asleep during lessons. When school ends in the afternoon, they walk back home, often arriving only as darkness falls.

Farmers in the Masvingo area have called on National Parks to conduct intensive awareness campaigns at the schools nearby in order to sensitise the school children to the danger posed by the lions, especially Mawaya.

Lions within Zimbabwe itself very rarely attack humans, so the farmers are more worried about their livestock.

But since these animals, and Maways especially, have been in the custody of humans and presumably escaped because they were unhappy with the way they were being treated, they could now see all humans as a potential danger to themselves and hence attack them whenever they see them.

In all, Sparrow has more than 60 lions at his breeding project, called Simply Wild.

I actually hope they recapture these lions very soon, before it devours a child.


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