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Lenku opens new warfront against KWS

Residents have resolved to shut down schools if the wildlife agency was unable to drive away the offending animals

The Kajiado County Government and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) could be headed on a collision course over human/wildlife conflict in Poka Kenyawa Ward, in Kajiado East.

This is after Governor Joseph ole Lenku gave the wildlife body an ultimatum to find and kill a rogue elephant suspected to have killed two people in the area, or he would mobilize people to have it killed.

Ole Lenku’s sentiments came after a hue and cry over the killing of two people in the ward. “Two lives have been lost senselessly in the past one week. No other person will die as we watch. We want KWS to kill this elephant or the people will kill it themselves. Let them take note,” said the governor.

Ole Lenku said that entire villages were living in fear, with school children now unable to freely attend school for fear of wild animals. “One and a half years ago, KWS told Kajiado residents that they would compensate deaths and injuries caused by wildlife.

No one has been paid so far. We take great exception to this injustice.” The governor’s remarks were made at a public baraza at Ilkulunyeti village.

Community leaders who spoke at the baraza endorsed a proposal to close a number of schools in the area until the wild animals were contained.

Kajiado KNUT Executive Secretary Elly Korinko, who was also in the meeting, supported the residents’ resolve to shut down the schools if KWS was unable to drive away the animals.

In a statement issued by spokesman Ngugi Gecaga, KWS sent condolences the families of the deceased and reiterated its resolve to work closely with communities in areas affected by human-wildlife conflict. “A KWS rapid response unit known as Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) continually monitors and rapidly responds to emerging conflict incidents,” said the statement.

“In the Meruishi incident, PAMU supported by a multi-agency team from the county administration managed to drive the elephants back to Chyulu Hills National Park. The teams combed the area with aerial assistance from a helicopter and we confirm there are no stray elephants in the area now,” added the statement.

On the issue of compensation, the statement said the wildlife agency was currently in the process of disbursing funds availed by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to pay families of people killed by wildlife after due process and verification is done.

On May 4, residents of Enkonerei were reported to have found the remains of a person whom they suspected had also been killed by wild animals.

Gecaga, however, disputed the claim that the remains belonged to a victim of human/wildlife conflict.

“It would be erroneous to say that this other person was killed by wild animals when what was discovered was only a skull and pieces of clothing,” said the KWS spokesman, adding that they would await post-mortem results to ascertain the real cause of death.

This is not the first time Ole Lenku is having run-ins with KWS over conservation issues. In 2017, he threatened to turn wild animals into food if the wildlife body did not stop harassing Maasai herders and their livestock.

“Kajiado and Narok are the only counties that allow wild animals to live in their farms with zero benefits to the people,” said Ole Lenku. “KWS has been going around using helicopters killing our livestock and harassing the young men looking after the animals.

We are telling them to get their animals or we shall turn them into food.”

At the same time, Ole Lenku has ordered the wildlife body to institute equitable sharing of revenue or risk wild animals being chased out of Maasai owned group ranches.

“Our demands are nothing short of a 50-50 revenue sharing arrangement,” said Ole Lenku. “Our people have borne the brunt of human-wildlife conflict for a very long time. People have lost lives, while others have been maimed by wild animals, yet we get nothing for keeping these animals on our lands.”

He termed the money KWS remits to the people of Kajiado an insult. He gave an example of Amboseli National Park, which is in Kajiado County, which only pays school fees to families living next to the park. “Our people have had enough of this kind of exploitation,” he said. “We should bring an end to the culture of our people being used as souvenirs in photographs.”

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