At the age of 23, Shepherd Mudenda has proved to be the bravest man in the country. He is doing the most unpopular task in his district. As a brave young man, Shepherd is the Lion Guard of his community in ward 4 Binga district, which is characterised by poor rainfall, dry areas, mosquito infested areas and wild animals.
Born in a family of nine children, Shepherd has always wanted to be an Investigations officer since he was young, but however one can note that this is what he is still doing but in a different setting. As a lion Guard, Shepherd wakes up as early as 4am in a normal day and his tasks are to check for animal spoors in and around his and nearby villages along path boundaries.
“I assess kraals to check for causalities and advice farmers to reinforce their kraals by building with poles that are 2 metres high and compacted together so that lions cannot see what is inside,” he said.
Shepherd joined the Civil protection unit for ward 4 which is the largest ward in Binga geographically and in terms of population and is located between 2 national parks which results in human and wildlife conflicts in May 2017. Many people from his community have lost their livestock to wild animals especially lions,
“My father lost six goats which were our source of living to lions one night and my father’s friend lost 4 cattle and 20 goats in one night, this pushed me to want to join the Civil protection unit especially and be a lion guard. I felt that something had to be done to stop this,” a brave faced Shepherd says.
“Among other things I have to tag animals with tags so that we track movements of lions using a GPS gadget, and so far, we have managed to tag one lion, this is to ensure and warn the community so that it is on guard all the time,” he said.
Once Shepherd and his team spot a lion in the area they quickly equip the community with trumpets which they will use to scare the animals away. The Civil protection units comes as an initiative under the ZRBF Project to strengthen communities which go through human and wildlife conflicts. All that the lion guard does together with a team of rangers in his community is to ensure there is harmony between the community and wildlife.
With the presence of a lion guard, Shepherd’s community have noticed the decrease in the number of attacks and the presence of wild animals in their villages. Elmon Mudhenda, the councillor for ward 4, expressed gratitude to the work that the lion guard is doing in protecting his community,
“This young man is doing wonders in this community, he assists and guards the community whenever wild animals, especially lions are close by. We had lost livestock to animals and now the losses are few or none because Shepherd goes around villages assisting households on the types of kraals to build as well as alerting communities so that they are on guard,” a bright eyed Elmon said.
Shepherd dreams big, he wants to acquire a diploma in Wildlife management and become an Ecologist or Professional Hunter.
The district is one of the driest districts of the country hence the interventions by the Zimbabwe Valley Alliance (ZVA) under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund Project (ZRBF) to increase the resilience capacity of communities to protect development gains and achieve improved well-being in the face of shocks and stresses related to seasonal drought in a sustainable manner. Similar activities are in other two districts, in Mbire and Kariba along the Zambezi Valley.