Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
TERROR has engulfed Buhera after an aggressive hyena snatched a six-year-old boy from his parents’ doorstep, viciously killed him and dropped off his mutilated skeleton in a nearby riverbed in the middle of the night.
Elisha Zvavahera, of Zvavahera village, under Chief Nyashanu, had a torrid time last Friday when he was attacked by the lone hyena while playing outside with 10 other siblings from his father’s polygamous marriage and dragged for some metres and his body was discovered with — a pierced throat, ripped stomach and gnawed limps — the following morning.
The incident plunged the community into deep mourning and trepidation.
This prompted the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to immediately deploy rangers to pursue, trap and eliminate the hyena.
A visit to the Zvavahera area established that Elisha, who was still recovering from osteogenesis imperfecta (a brittle bone disease) and could hardly run, was allegedly seized by the animal while his parents were in the house listening to the 8pm news bulletin on radio.
They allegedly ignored an alarm initially raised by one of the children to the effect that Elisha is “crying for help” after attack by the voracious hyena.
When Elisha’s mother — Mrs Ellen Matsenhura — eventually went out to investigate after about 20 minutes, the victim was no longer traceable.
Matsenhura rushed back into the house to alert her husband — Ishmael Zvavahera — who with the aid of a small torch, detected and traced the paw prints of the hyena without success.
Though some village dogs barked incessantly, the ferocious hyena was undeterred and tightly gripped its prey by the head with its bone-crushing canines and killed him before he could cry out.
The boy was pulled through the bush for some distance and devoured along the nearby Chikundamatoto river.
Mr Zvavahera said this was the worst tragedy to inflict his family. He said the tragic incident was giving them sleepless nights and has left the community petrified.
“His bones were weak since childhood and he could not walk or run normally and when other children noticed the hyena and rushed for cover, Elisha lagged behind and fell prey. This is the worst catastrophe to affect the family. We later noticed that as the children played outside, the hyenas were by the kraal. They were running towards the kraals, and that is how and where Elisha was snatched.
“His body was discovered along the river around 8am the following morning, and the sight was horrible. His stomach had been ripped open and the intestines were all over the scene. His legs had been gnawed and the head had been pierced. He had two deep cuts on both ears, suggesting that is the area the animal sank its canines and dragged him. It was a scary view; I had to draw all my courage as the father to put the ripped body together. This is the work of the devil,” said Mr Zvavahera, who is a member of Johanne Marange Church.
Mr Zvavahera said the hyenas besieged the community again on Monday evening, and killed goats, cattle and donkeys.
“This area is no longer habitable and kids are refusing to go to school fearing a comeback by the hyenas. It is unfortunate that I have lost a son in this incident, but we should not lose another person to have these animals eliminated,” he said.
Mrs Zvavahera wept uncontrollably as she reminisced the loss of her son.
“I have not seen his body; I stayed some few metres away, until they collected it for post mortem. It was too ghastly to look at. Imagine what he went through. It came as a shock that only my child, among 10 other children, could disappear without trace.”
Village head Samuel Zvavahera (81) said he had not seen a tragedy of that magnitude in his whole life. He said hyenas are known as scavengers that eat the remains of dead animals left by other predators and shows that they are now a serious danger to humans.
“Modern ones are now quite dangerous, possibly because they are competing with humans for survival. They are very impatient and attack anything that comes their way and we should devise ways to protect community,” he said.
The nocturnal hunters are coming into conflict with humans more frequently as the human population increases in the district. A Zimparks official who refused to be named citing protocol said rangers were working in the community to educate people about ways to prevent conflict with hyenas and other wild animals.
“We took immediate action to prevent further attacks by the aggressive animals and we are convinced it is dead. We have also deployed a professional hunter to pursue and eliminate them,” said the official.