By Zambezi Current
Two elephants were killed yesterday after being hit by a speeding dump truck owned by one of the companies mining coal near Sinamatela Camp inside the Hwange National Park.
The driver escaped unscathed in the incident while the 40-ton dump truck was reportedly not damaged during the incident. The jumbos had a combined value of USD$40 000.
Sources told Zambezi Current that the speeding truck at Zambezi Gas and Coal Mine concession area struck down the elephants, a mother and its calf on Tuesday night. The accident was attributed to poor lighting and speeding on the part of the driver.
“The accident happened during the night on Tuesday where the driver of a dump truck was speeding while using poor lighting. He fortunately escaped without injuries when he rammed into the two elephants, which were killed instantly. We are not sure of the contents of the truck but it’s suspected that it was loaded with coal as evidenced by the impact that resulted in the deaths of the jumbos. Interestingly the dump truck was not damaged in the incident,” said one source.
The company is one of the mining entities exploiting coal together with Makomo Resources near the Sinamatela Camp in Hwange National Park, which is said to be less than 20km away from their concession areas. Wildlife particularly elephants stroll into the concession areas sometimes bringing activities to halt.
Zimparks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo confirmed the incident on his Twitter handle but refused to shed details of the incident.
“It is unfortunate that two elephants have been killed in a road accident in Hwange,” he said.
However, an official close to developments who requested anonymity said they were investigating the incident with indications pointing to speeding.
“Details are still filtering in as we investigate and try to unravel what happened but so far it appears poor lighting and speeding were the cause of accident. We have since warned the company over the incident to exercise caution when operating in areas where wildlife strays into their concessions and if it happens again prosecution will be unavoidable. I think there is need for these companies to exercise since it is common knowledge that wildlife strolls freely from Sinamatela into the area.”
Wildlife conservationists called for the companies operating in the area to exercise extreme caution to avoid unnecessary loss of both human and wildlife.
“There is a certain expectation that any business operating within the buffer zone of a national park would exercise the due caution and care while carrying out its operations. This instance in which the Zambezi Gas truck driver was reportedly speeding is high concerning and worse yet we don’t know how other many smaller animal species have been killed by coal mining trucks and other traffic in and around the entrance to Hwange National Park though unreported. In my opinion, urgent action should be taken required on the part by authorities responsible for keeping the wildlife in Hwange safe. Is there sufficient road signage? Are speed limits imposed and enforced? Also what is the penalty from Zimparks so as to alleviate any future unnecessary killing of elephants and other wildlife in the area. At the very least the company involved should be taking steps to make amends and do something for the wildlife park. There is need to pay attention that if a large animal so visible can be killed by a speeding truck which is operated by a coal mine that is clearly familiar with wildlife traffic in that area what more the danger of our human populations within Hwange,” Elisabeth Pasalk, said board chairperson of Association for Tourism Hwange.
Meanwhile the company described the incident as ‘just an accident’ before referring further comments to Zimparks.
The tusks have since been confiscated by Zimparks while the elephant meat was distributed to workers for consumption.
The accident has reignited the debate of allowing mining companies in or near wildlife sanctuaries with activists calling for a total ban of activities that endanger wildlife.
Earlier this year there was a nationwide uproar and pleas which drew international attention over the awarding of Special Mining Grants to two Chinese companies to mine coal in Hwange National Park. Conservationists, tourism operators and Zimbabweans in general made a passionate plea to President ED Mnangagwa leading to the cancellation of the grants.