ESCALATION: KWS accused of devaluing human lives in favour of wildlife
‘You cannot police the whole community,’ leaders tell state agency in the face of aerial surveillance and increased patrols to protect wildlife
Following the killing of a cyclist by an elephant and the subsequent spearing of elephants in Mashuuru Sub-County, Maasai leaders have come out in support of residents and chastised the Kenya Wildlife Service for allowing the situation to degenerate due to inaction.
Following the escalation of the human-wildlife conflict, both the area Member of Parliament Kakuta Maimai and Member of County Assembly Ben Moloma have faulted KWS for the impasse, saying it did not value Maasai lives and took them for granted.
Kakuta accused the state agency of devaluing human lives in favour of wildlife. “When our people are killed and property destroyed, no action is taken by KWS, which claims to have no money for basic operations,” said Maimai. “Immediately an elephant is killed, however, there are helicopters hovering all around us.”
‘For every death, an elephant must die’
The legislator asked the state wildlife agency to take its responsibilities more seriously, saying the people had become fed up and would henceforth take matters into their own hands. “When an elephant kills someone, an elephant must also die,” said Maimai. “This is a desperate measure due to the absence of government in the area.”
Additionally, the MP promised to introduce a wildlife Bill for mitigation mechanisms to deal with the human-wildlife conflict when Parliament resumes in February.
He urged KWS to begin practicing corporate social responsibility in the community for the people to see the benefit of the wildlife in their midst. Such activities, he suggested, could include fencing schools and expanding feeder roads. As matters stand, he said, the people have nothing to gain.
Moloma said the number of elephants in the area had increased dramatically. “We have over 2,000 elephants within Imbuko Location, where the latest killing by an elephant occurred.”
KWS ‘not committed to anything’
Moloma called for a meeting of stakeholders that would include the Director of KWS and the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife. His sentiments were echoed by Maimai, who said the local KWS leadership had failed to solve the problem and a solution had to be found at the higher echelons of the government.
“KWS is not committed to anything,” said Moloma. “We have experienced a very long drought. KWS has not even provided a single primary school with relief food. They are not taking our people seriously at all.”
The two leaders further called for the reopening of wildlife corridors to allow wildlife to migrate between the Amboseli, Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks. “These corridors have been used by wildlife since time immemorial. KWS gave authority for people to settle there and hence block the wildlife migration corridors, leading wildlife to meander into other areas,” said Maimai. “The settlements are only a few years old and unless we are told that there are very powerful people involved who cannot be touched, those settlements should be demolished.”
Moloma dismissed the aerial surveillance and increased patrols by KWS in the area as alarmist and likely to escalate the situation. “You cannot police the whole community. You cannot be everywhere all the time. We need to negotiate. We have seriously affected areas like Imbuko, Kiboko, Wakaka, and even Emali.”
Unlike in Narok where the county government runs the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and its revenues therefore benefit residents directly, the Amboseli National Park is run by the national government. Despite petitions by leaders to ensure locals benefit, this is not the case so far. Locals therefore see the wildlife as a mere liability that is of no benefit to them.
While it is a common sight for wildlife to roam freely on people’s land, the locals are often arrested when they venture to graze their livestock within the national park. The lethargy by KWS and the national government in dealing with concerns by locals has now reached boiling point, leading to the killing of wildlife.