TOURISM and Arts Minister Ronald Chitotela says 28 people died while 25 others sustained injuries and were permanently disabled after being attacked by crocodiles between 2016 and 2019.

And Chitotela says government has observed that some people who smoke cannabis get the wrong idea that they cannot be attacked when they go to crocodile infested areas.

Responding to a written question from Sioma Independent member of parliament Mbololwa Subulwa, who wanted to know how many people had died as a result of Crocodile attacks, Chitotela said 28.

“I wish to inform the House that the population of Crocodiles in Sioma parliamentary Constituency is estimated to be around 370 as of July 2020. Mr Speaker, a total number of 53 people were attacked by Crocodiles during the period 2016 to 2019 as follows: In 2016, nine people were attacked; 2017, nine people were attacked; 2018, 10 people were attacked; and 2019, 25 people were attacked. Mr Speaker, I regret to inform the August House that 28 people died as a result of being attacked by Crocodiles and 25 people were injured and permanently disabled during the period 2016 to 2019,” Chitotela said on Tuesday.

And Chitotela said some people had been deliberately playing in areas where Crocodiles are found.

“I visited Luangwa National Parks Mr Speaker and I was so shocked when we went to do the tour in Chifunda area in Chama District. I found human beings Mr Speaker going into Luangwa River and Crocodiles are playing there and people are busy fishing with a lot of water. I developed interest and consulted and asked them and said ‘but why should you risk to this level?’ and people Mr Speaker [gave very strange answers. And when somebody is one “chamba and charm” they think the Crocodile cannot attack them. So, we need to continuously educate our people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chitotela said in order to protect the lives of people living around the water bodies, government through his ministry, was conducting continuous awareness meetings on the dangers of certain activities among other measures.

“To prevent further attacks and loss of life in the same vein, we wish to continue sensitizing and conducting awareness meetings with the people staying across the Crocodile infested water bodies; drilling of boreholes in the affected areas to reduce dependence on river water by the members of the community. So far, 10 boreholes have been drilled and plans are underway to drill another 10 boreholes. Erection of Crocodile fences has commenced in some areas where Crocodile attacks have been recorded. A total of eight fences have been erected so far and plans are underway to erect ten more,” said Chitotela.

“However Mr Speaker I must state that we have observed with concern in some areas that the fences are being removed by the people and the community and they are using them as fences and cages for chickens. We continue engaging with the partners so that we can help to mitigate the human-animal conflict and also consideration of procurement of banana boats so that our children who are crossing from the island to main land specifically for educational purposes can use. And another measure Mr Speaker is engagement of the Ministry of General Education to ensure that schools that are in the island are upgraded to day Secondary schools.”