Nation (Kenya)

WEDNESDAY JULY 3 2019
Elephants in Laikipia

Residents of Siron Village in Marmanet, Laikipia County, react after coming across a herd of nine elephants being driven back to the forest on March 20, 2019. PHOTO | STEVE NJUGUNA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By IBRAHIM ORUKO

More than 400 people were killed in human-wildlife conflicts between 2014 and 2017, with 77 deaths recorded in 2018, according to the Tourism ministry.

The ministry has also reported that 1,263 people were seriously injured by the animals last year, 501 properties damaged and 735 animals killed.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala presented the grim statistics to the Senate Committee on Tourism on Tuesday, admitting that human-wildlife conflict remains a major threat to safety and wildlife conservation.

Elephants have killed people and destroyed elephants in counties including Kajiado, Narok, Taita Taveta and Makueni counties. Other cases have been reported in Laikipia, Lamu and Meru.

CAUSES

The CS faced the committee to discuss nominated Senator Judith Pareno’s petition on the government’s delays in resolving these conflicts.

Mr Balala said the conflicts are fuelled by factors including changes in the climate and land use, growth of the human population and blockage of wildlife migratory corridors and dispersal areas.

“Loss of habitats, degradation and fragmentation, and changing perceptions by some communities living with wildlife have worsened the situation,” he said.

CLAIMS

The committee has tabulated claims totalling Sh5 billion over the period.

Regarding this, the minister noted hat the Ministerial Wildlife Conservation and Compensation Committee (MWCCC) was examining claims filed between 2014 and 2017.

Mr Balala told the team chaired by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru that some Sh1.5 million had been paid out for each of the 166 approved human deaths.

He noted that budgetary constraints and lack of proper and verified claims have hampered compensation efforts.

“We have had challenges since 2014 that have made compensation difficult. There was no money and the verification of claims has not been consistently undertaken,” he said.

“The payments have been processed by the Kenya Wildlife Service with an initial payment of 30 percent paid by the end of June 2019,” he added.

Verification of 4,530 injury claims has been completed and that a final report will have been completed by July 10, he said.

In the 2019/20 budget, some Sh579 million has been allocated to compensation.

STEPS TAKEN

The CS further told the committee that the KWS has started fencing hotspots and that ministry was considering insurance firms to provide covers for people living near national parks and game reserves.

The ministry has also gazetted a task force on compensation schemes, he said.

The taskforce will provide sustainable frameworks to facilitate payment as well as mitigation strategies to enhance human-wildlife co-existence.

Mr Balala said the KWS was also leveraging technology to operationalise a modern command centre to manage and mitigate the conflicts.

“We are engaging stakeholders at various levels, through the land use policy, spatial planning, and education on conservation,” he said.