The death of a 70-year-old man attacked by a hippo at Mikuna beach in Rusinga on Tuesday has caused panic among residents along the shores of Lake Victoria.
Richard Ndege was attacked by the hippo as he set fish traps in the lake. He died on the spot after being bitten on the stomach and shoulder.
Rusinga East Location Chief Mboya Owuor said the Ndege did not see the animal that had hidden in a thicket along the shores.
Some fishermen who noticed the attack moved to the scene to save Ndege. Another fisherman reported that he used a rod to hit the animal on its back, and it charged at the crowd.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the killer hippo was protecting its calf. KWS warden Ziporah Mideza said that is why it charged at anyone who tried to approach it.
"Our team went to the scene and established that the hippo had an offspring, which it was protecting. It felt as if the people who approached it were invading its territory," she said.
After the incident, locals asked the KWS officers to tame the animals.
The officers managed to push the hippo and others into the deeper parts of the lake to minimise conflict with humans.
Residents decried cases of hippo attacks along the shores of Lake Victoria.
Mr Owuor said he had received reports of people encountering the animal as they go about their daily activities.
Fishermen are more at risk of being attacked because they spend most of their time in the lake.
County Beach Management Network Chairman Edward Oremo appealed to KWS to tame the wild animals.
"Fishermen should also avoid traditional ways of fishing and embrace the modern ones. Traditional fishing methods predispose them to risks of attack by wild animals,” Mr Oremo said.
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo called on the government to take urgent action to manage the increasing human-wildlife conflict.
"I have consistently raised this issue in Parliament and we may be forced to take drastic action to protect human life if the government fails to do so," she said.
KWS, however, attributed the attack and past encounters to climate change.
According to Ms Mideza, farmers have invaded grazing land for hippos as pastures for their livestock dried up and shrank.
She accused farmers of moving to areas that were previously used by hippos only.
In the lake, hippos also get resistance when fishermen use rogue fishing methods that drive out the animals.
"Interference from the land and the lake makes the animals vulnerable. Most of them will, therefore, attack to protect themselves," the KWS warden said.
Nevertheless, the agency has intensified civic education along the beaches in the lake to eradicate human wildlife conflict, especially during the rainy season, when more attacks are likely to be reported.
Ms Mideza said her officers have held talks with fisher folks to educate them on ways they can keep themselves safe from animal attack.
"We have held public barazas and radio talk shows to tell fishermen that hippos are a national resource. We will continue sensitising them to minimise conflict," she said.
Ndege's body was moved to Med 25 Kirindo Mortuary for post-mortem.