HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT: Whenever KWS are contacted, residents complain, they do not take action
The message that the Maasai would henceforth be forced to take the law into their own hands has now been sounded loud and clear, with little response from a lethargic KWS and thus setting the stage for a nasty conflict with the community as witnessed by the latest killing of an elephant
Angry residents of Merueshi area in Kajiado County have killed a pregnant elephant and speared an unknown number of others, making good their threats to take the law into their own hands in the face of inaction by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
The residents accuse the state agency of ignoring their pleas to deal with the danger posed by wild animals in the area.
In a statement, KWS said about 200 people from Esarunoto village “went on a spearing spree of elephants within the area following the killing of one of their own” the previous evening.
“Several other elephants scampered to safety with spear wounds as witnessed by blood droppings on the nature trails/escape routes,” said KWS.
A young cyclist, Nelson Lepilal, was killed by an elephant on his way home from the market in the latest incident of killing of human beings by wildlife. The incident occurred at Esarunoto village in Poka Kenyewa Ward in Mashuuru Sub-County.
Faced by a devastating drought that is said to be the worst in decades, wild animals have come out of the national parks and game reserves in droves in search of food, threatening human lives and property.
“The incident happened on December 15,” said a village elder, Zakaria Shoop, regarding the killing of Lepilal. “Apart from the young man, many other people have lost their lives.”
KWS said aerial survey and drives around the area were now necessary to safeguard elephants from further attacks. “A team of PAMU, Amboseli and Kajiado stations are on the ground to contain the situation.”
The main danger to residents, Shoop said, comes from elephants and lions — and hyenas to a lesser extent. “Lions tend to hide from people and then attack cattle for food.”
The elephant menace has been an issue over the years and the KWS has always been reactive,” said Elly Korinko, the Executive Secretary of the Kajiado branch of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and who also hails from the area. “They have not been taking any measures to control their animals, at all.”
Korinko said many types of wild animals have been roaming in his own farm, including elephants, adding that they were of no economic benefit to him.
The escalation leading to killing of wildlife follows warnings from leaders and residents, who have expressed their wrath over the handling of complaints by KWS. While Governor Joseph ole Lenku has regularly spoken out about the wildlife menace, Kajiado Senator Samuel Seki has waded into the debate as well.
Writing on his social media handles, the senator said it was painful to keep losing innocent people from attacks by wildlife. “I called the KWS office and directed them to drive all the wild animals away immediately, failure to which we shall take serious measures.”
The message that the Maasai would henceforth be forced to take the law into their own hands has now been sounded loud and clear, including from the Maa leadership, with little response from a lethargic KWS and thus setting the stage for a nasty conflict with the community as witnessed by the latest killing of an elephant.
The senator further said he supported Lenku’s comment last week that if KWS did not manage the wildlife, “we shall do so ourselves.”
The wildlife menace has been exacerbated by human settlement along wildlife migration corridors. “These elephants used to migrate from Amboseli to Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks through a corridor known as Makulul, or Olorien to the Maasai. People have been settled there, so interfering with that corridor,” said Korinko.
It is when the animals find the corridor blocked that they divert to other areas in an attempt to reach their destinations, in the process running into human settlements with consequent loss of lives and damage to property.
Whenever KWS officers are contacted, residents complain, they do not take action to redirect wildlife back into the parks and only promise compensation. “But what is compensation when you have lost someone?” posed Korinko. “They just say, ‘Come and we give you a claim form.’ What kind of attitude is that?”
The Maasai, like other African communities, had lived side-by-side with wildlife for eons before colonialism, which brought about the segregation of wildlife from people. Having retained a large proportion of their cultural practices, the Maasai are known to be accommodative of wildlife, but this is beginning to change as population pressure puts demands on the land, especially in times of the kind of severe drought that has gripped Kenya in 2022.
The Maasai are now tired and are telling KWS to take the animals away or the community will expose the animals to poachers to kill, said Kolinko. “They drink water and graze inside my farm and nobody kills them. It is not possible for us to keep losing lives and the story [from KWS] is always the same.”
The area Member of Parliament Kakuta Maimai was said to be out of the country and could not be reached for comment.