By Cuthbert Mashoko
Gathering caterpillars in Mwenezi brings respite on many families as they fatten up their wallets in December for the festive season.
The protein rich caterpillars whose botanical name is Gonimbrasia belina and popularly known as madora or macimbi locally, are a source of delicacy for many as thousands flock Mwenezi to buy the worm for consumption and resale.
Unfortunately, erratic rains and very hot temperatures which rocked the district since October over turned tables.
The eggs laid by the caterpillar butterflies on the host Mopani tree failed to hatch due to extremely hot temperatures.
High temperatures which clocked to forty-two degrees Celsius proved to be a threat to the life cycle of the Mopani worms.
Under normal circumstances the laid eggs would hatch in to larvae and feed on the leaves of the Mopani tree till maturity.
This sorry state of affairs is yet another sign of the devastating effects of Climate Change on Mwenezi District which falls under natural ecological farming Region IV.
Gathering and selling of caterpillar worms, a domain for women, used to be a major financial boost as it was a source of money to pay school fees and buy other household necessities.
A 20l bucket of dried caterpillars would fetch as much as R500 or US$25 on the local market during the gathering time and could go up to R 800 or US$40 after the gathering period.
All this is no longer the case as the money spinning worm seems to be under Climate Change threat and a possible extinction hangs on the horizon.
Worldwide, changes in weather patterns are known for having a heavy bearing on wildlife.
This can be said of the elephant birds which used to be in Africa. With the change in weather patterns the birds are no longer in existence in Africa as they migrated to Europe were they enjoy cool temperatures which are ideal for their survival.
The story of the extinction of the dinosaur is another indicator to the impact of unfavourable climatic conditions on wildlife.
With the picture looking gloom on the life cycle of Mopani worms, it is critical that strategic intervention methods are put into practice to breathe life to the Mopani worm’s life circle which seem to be in the intensive care unit.
The creation of biological laboratories that monitor and sustain the life cycle of Mopani worms can serve the money maker worms from possible extinction.
This will help to conserve the butterflies which lay the golden eggs.
The rationale behind the creation of biological laboratories is for preserving the” seed”, which are the adult butterflies.
In the context of Mwenezi a Biological Laboratory in Rutenga will be most ideal. This could be complimented by the creation of protected Mopani forests since the Mopani tree hosts the life cycle of the caterpillar worms.
Establishing protected forests will literally serve the Mopani tree from deforestation as the tree is highly favored by charcoal makers for charcoal production.
The Mafungautsi protected forests in Gokwe are famous for managing to sustain an ecosystem that was at the verge of deforestation and pouching.
Biological laboratories have registered a success story in South Africa were the Birdlife project managed to craft favourable conditions for birds which were dying while others migrated to Europe.
It is against this background that biological laboratories can help to serve the caterpillar worms commonly dubbed ”Gonye remari” due to their cash spinning ability.
More so, there is need for the Environment Management Agency (EMA) to monitor the gathering of caterpillar worms in order to guide against over harvesting and destruction of the Mopani tree.
The traditional leadership can also play an important role in monitoring the gathering exercise by opening up the forests for picking the caterpillars when they are mature and closing the picking exercise at a reasonable time in order to sustain the lifecycle of the caterpillar worms.