Residents of Koreni and Mkunumbi villages in Lamu West constituency are living in fear of attacks by hippos that are roaming in villages in search of water.
More than 10 hippos have found refuge at the Mkunumbi and Koreni dams, the only water source for residents in the two villages, creating fear and panic.
The dams are almost drying up but the beasts are said to be hiding in the remaining muddy water during the day and roaming at night in the villages that are mostly occupied by pastoralists.
The animals are also said to be invading water kiosks and houses in search of water to quench their thirst as a drought ravages the region.
Speaking to Nation.Africa on Monday, Koreni community elder Muhumed Kalmei said the presence of the hippos is keeping residents indoors because they fear they may be mauled by the dangerous animals.
The animals have been roaming in the two villages for almost a month now, he said.
“We can’t walk out at night. We are staring at grave danger with these hippos here. They stray into our homesteads, prompting us to lock ourselves in the houses for hours. They have taken over our dams. They are now invading our water kiosks. Something needs to be done urgently,” Mr Kalmei said.
Khadija Hussein, a resident of Mkunumbi, said attempts by local youths to drive the animals away had failed.
She said families no longer allow their children to go to school early in the morning or leave late in the evening as the wild animals can attack them.
She called on the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to intervene and drive away the animals before they kill or injure someone.
“We have informed the KWS but nothing has been done so far. We have even mobilised local youths here who have tried to drive these hippos away by throwing stones at them in vain. The KWS should consider this as a matter of urgency and act. It has affected our daily life,” Ms Hussein said.
Abdulrahman Ali, a herder in Koreni, said since the hippos invaded their dams, none of them can dare to send their livestock there to drink water for fear that they might be attacked and killed.
“Our lives have been terrorised by the hippos. These creatures have forced us to even stop staying out with our animals into the late evening. We are always in our manyattas by 5pm unlike before when we would stay up to 6.30pm,” Mr Ali said.
A similar situation prevails in Bar’goni, Bobo, Roka-Kibiboni, and Mokowe villages, all in Hindi division, where locals also fear attacks by hippos. Some of the animals are reported to get stuck in the mud in Lake Chomo, which borders the villages.
Residents also appealed to KWS to contain the hippos and any other wild animals roaming in their villages.
Earlier this month, Mokowe residents had to scamper for safety when they found a buffalo resting in a roadside trench.
The same week, transport on the Lamu-Witu-Garsen road was briefly interrupted at Lango la Simba in Witu, Lamu West, after a pride of lions was seen walking on the road.
Motorists had to wait for the lions to disappear into the bush before proceeding to their destinations.
“We need to be protected from these hippos and other dangerous wildlife, including buffaloes and lions that frequently roam our villages during this drought spell. I wonder why the KWS is taking forever to contain these animals,” said Peter Mwaura, a Nyumba Kumi official in Hindi.
Lamu County KWS Senior Warden Mathias Mwavita said his agency was working to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in the region.
He said cases of stray wildlife in human habitats were inevitable during the drought and warned people against attempting to confront wild animals.
“KWS rangers are on the ground to react to any emergencies. Early this month we repaired the Koren borehole and provided a solar panel for pumping water through a donation we received from Honorary Warden Tiju Azizi. Water trucking for wildlife is also ongoing in selected areas of Lamu,” Mr Mwavita said.