Loisaba wildlife conservancy

Samburu pastoralists are allowed, by conservancy security personnel, access on January 24, 2017 to dwindling pasture on the plains of the Loisaba wildlife conservancy where controlled livestock grazing from surrounding manyattas (Samburu settlements) is helping mitigate conflict.

| Tony Karumba | AFP

Alarm as herders invade ranches, kill animals, threaten to burn lodges

What you need to know:

  • The Nation learnt a number of ranchers had begun evacuating thousands of tourists from their lodges for fear of being attacked.

Concerns have been raised on killing of wild animals by herders who have been invading conservancies and ranches in Laikipia County for more than a month.

Ranchers and conservationists said the illegal herders pose a big threat to one of Africa’s most exhilarating wilderness safari and wildlife tourism destinations.

At the 57,000-acre Loisaba wildlife conservancy in Laikipia North, the management said armed herders had resorted to indiscriminately shooting at wild animals – mainly elephants – to shoo them away from water points.

“Last weekend, one of the invaders speared a heavily pregnant plains zebra, leaving her paralysed,” said Mr Tom Silvester, the CEO of the conservancy.  

Security staff said armed morans were grazing their cattle in the conservancy at night.

“The morans had settled along the river with more than 3,000 head of cattle at the beginning of the month. They have been driving their cattle up to the fence around the lodge, now and then shining their torches at the guests’ tents; chanting and singing in praise of their cattle,” said a security manager at the conservancy.

“Gunshots ring out regularly – scaring off elephants and other wildlife,” the security manager added. 

On Monday, the management of Loisaba held talks on whether to evacuate tourists at one the lodges, which the herders had threatened to burn.

“We have been holding emergency meetings to discuss whether or not to evacuate our guests,” said a senior manager at the ranch. 

Ranch owners and pastrolists in Laikipia at loggerheads

Fear of attacks

The Nation learnt a number of ranchers had begun evacuating thousands of tourists from their lodges for fear of being attacked.

In the past one month, thousands of heavily armed herders have been invading conservancies and private properties in the county in search of  pasture and water for their cattle.

Jennings farm, Laikipia Nature Conservancy, Sossian, Mugie and Suiyan are among those affected.

Ranchers asked the government – through the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) – to beef up security at the privately owned conservancies to save wildlife, which guarantees huge amounts of revenue to Laikipia County every year.

Laikipia County Commissioner Daniel Nyameti said a contingent of General Service Unit (GSU) and Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) officers were deployed to the affected ranches and conservancies on Monday to flush out the herders.

Last week, leaders from the region pleaded with the herders to stop invading private properties.

Led by Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, Laikipia North MP Sarah Lekorere and former National Assembly Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, the leaders urged herders and ranchers to enter into emergency grazing agreements to mitigate forage deficits, conflicts and loss of livestock.

Mr Ole Kaparo, who owns a ranch in the area, and Mr Sylvester said ranchers were willing and ready to sign grazing agreements with the herders.

In 2017, more than 1,000 wild animals were killed in Laikipia County by poachers posing as herders.

At the Sossian and Mugie ranches, more than 32 elephants were killed for their ivories during an invasion by herders. Carcasses had bullet wounds on their bodies while other animals, including the endangered Grevy's zebra, impala, hartebeest and buffaloes were targeted for meat.

In Mugie ranch, the same number of elephants were killed. The ranch also lost 27 buffaloes, 40 zebras, 18 giraffes and other animals to invaders.