Africa, Environment

Hungry hyenas terrorize villagers in Tanzania

Frightened parents build makeshift schools to protect children from scavengers’ attacks

Kizito Makoye   | 05.01.2022
Hungry hyenas terrorize villagers in Tanzania

USHETU, Tanzania

A pack of hungry hyenas has caused panic in the drought-hit Ushetu district of the Shinyanga region in the East African country of Tanzania, attacking villagers and killing livestock.

Dozens of hyenas, who have strayed from a nearby wildlife sanctuary, are targeting people and livestock, highlighting rising conflicts between humans and wildlife.

Local residents say they are terrified of rising attacks by the nocturnal animals who have so far attacked a dozen people and killed scores of goats.

Makeshift schools

At the Imalange village in Sabasabini ward in Ushetu district, parents have been forced to build makeshift classrooms for their children who normally walk miles into the bush to reach their school.

The students have frequently been targeted by hyenas while on their way to school, local residents said.

Tired of escorting children to school almost every day, the parents in the impoverished village have mobilized to build makeshift classrooms to save children from walking a long distance to school.

The threat of hyenas coupled with a long distance to school deterred many students from attending school regularly, local residents said, adding many children have dropped out.

“I am tired of leaving my important farm work to escort children to school. These animals must be killed,” Rahel Kisena, a parent and resident of Imalange, told Anadolu Agency.

Deadly attacks

Dozens of people have been injured after being attacked by hyenas in Imalange village since November last year, local ward leaders in Ushetu said.

Emmanuel Makashi, a ward councilor at Imalange, said the village, nestled next to a government forest reserve, is prone to frequent wildlife attacks due to the overpopulation of animals.

“We urge the government to take urgent action to stop further attacks by these wild animals, which are a nuisance to the public,” he told Anadolu Agency.

At Imalange village, a 12-year-old student at Kabanga Primary School was injured by a hyena in November, prompting angry villagers to hunt down and kill three hyenas in retaliation.

The scavenger is said to have pounced on the hapless boy as he lazily walked to school on dew-laden grass early morning, badly injuring him as he screamed for help.

Human-wildlife conflict

Officials from Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority, a government agency overseeing the welfare of wildlife, confirmed they have received reports of human and wildlife conflict in the Ushetu district, adding that they are working to capture and translocate stray animals away from human habitats.

“We usually kill the troubled animals when they threaten human life, but we try our best to keep them at bay,” Lupyana Mahenge, a principal game warden, told Anadolu Agency.

According to him, the authority is facing a big challenge to monitor the predators who frequently stray into the human homesteads.

“We ask members of the community to keep us informed whenever they see wild animals in the villages so that we can take appropriate actions,” Mahenge said.

Although hyenas are known for their scavenging skills, wildlife experts said they can be bold and powerful hunters whose savagery belies their reputation as ‘laughing’ cowards.

The nocturnal animals with sharp incisors kill as much as 95% of the food they eat and are known for chasing away rival predators, including leopards, from their kills, local wildlife experts said.

Residents in Ushetu complained that hyenas have been giving them sleepless nights, affecting their daily routines.

“They are very dangerous. You never know when it is your turn to be attacked,” said Nyamizi Ntilima, a resident of Ushetu.

In another incident on Nov. 27, 2020, local residents said, Maimuna Salum, a 22-year-old woman, was attacked by a pack of hyenas and injured on the right arm and thigh as she drew water from a well.

The woman was rescued by neighbors who heard her screaming helplessly as the scavengers attacked her.

“I hit hard one animal on the head with a club to scare it away,” said Ali Makina, a resident of Ushetu.

In a recent attack, a pack of hyenas strayed into people’s habitats in search of food and terrorized residents in Uyogo village.

However, angry villagers armed with arrows and machetes scared away the wild animals.

“We are in trouble, we really need help to resolve this crisis,” said Makashi.

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