When darkness falls in Diani, Kwale County, so do herds of cattle lie down on roadsides, mainly on the Likoni-Lungalunga highway and Diani Beach Road, for the night.
The livestock then get up again after sunrise to roam the streets, targeting dumping areas, marketplaces or residential areas mostly in search of leftover food.
But this has caused an uproar among authorities, tourists and residents, who find the cows with unknown owners a nuisance.
Residents say the cows make the tourist resort town unattractive and want the county government to take action.
Their presence on the Likoni-Lungalunga highway is also a safety risk because they could cause accidents when they cross the road without herders and lie on roadsides.
“It is no surprise to step on cow dung when you walk to the beach,” said Said Juma, a resident of Ukunda.
Diani is famous for its white sandy beaches, attracting tourists from all over the world, while Ukunda, its main urban town, is busy day and night.
“Everywhere you go, you find cows, and no one has ever taken ownership of them. We wonder if they are wild animals,” Mr Juma said.
There are so many cows, he said, that they compete for space with women selling vegetables on roadsides as they seem to enjoy leftovers and human food.
Binti Hamisi, another resident, said the animals have contributed to worsening hygiene in Diani.
“I have seen that the streets are being beautified but the cows are eating the grass. They are also common in areas where there is solid waste and leftovers, and by the time they leave the area the litter is usually spread to other parts,” Ms Hamisi said.
Some residents are superstitious about the cows and say some of them can produce milk but no one milks them, fearing what might happen to them.
Omar Tambwe, a resident of Ukunda, said that despite the high demand for red meat from businesses and hotels in the town, it is impossible to steal the cows for that purpose.
“You cannot risk stealing and slaughtering the cow. You might slaughter it and you or a member of your family ends up dying,” he claimed.
Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani has acknowledged that the cows have puzzled county officials but she believes their owners are residents of Ukunda.
“This is a big issue for the county government because those affected by the cows and the owners of the cows are residents. We are looking for an effective way to deal with them because how can you take a cow without its owners?” she asked.
But Elizabeth Mumbua, a business owner, doesn’t see a problem with the cows.
“I am happy about the cows because they help slow down speeding tuktuks on the road,” she told the Nation.
Ms Mumbua may be in the minority. Plans are in place to rid the streets of the cows, said Diani Municipality Manager Hamisi Mwandaro.
The mysterious cows are owned by more than 20 people, he added.
“I have managed to get the list of all the owners and I have told them that we are going to take action on their cows if they do not take responsibility and tame their livestock,” he said.
He acknowledged that the cows were a nuisance to businesses, tourists and residents of Ukunda and Diani. He said he would reach out to the unknown owners through community radio stations.
“Very soon, I believe that the farmers will have to remove the cows from the streets. We are giving them time to organise themselves,” Mr Mwandaro said.
He warned that if the farmers don’t remove their animals from the streets, the county government may confiscate them.