Police in Murang’a on Sunday recovered 121 of the 824 sheep stolen at night from New Day Farm situated in Makuyu by a gang of 12 which was armed with crude weapons.
The farm belongs to Dr Charagu Mararo and the stolen animals were estimated to be valued at Sh5 million.
"Our Directorate of Criminal Investigations Officers (DCI) as well as regular police in conjunction with area National Government Administration Officers immediately set about to pursue the thieves who had escaped into the vast Kakuzi plantation," said Murang'a South Sub-County Police Commander Alexander Shikondi.
By Sunday midnight, the security officers who had sniffer dogs had recovered 121 sheep worth Sh840,000.
"We are still pursuing the criminals aiming at recovering all the sheep and delivering them back to their owner as well as arresting suspects and arraigning them," he said.
A night earlier, a gang of four raided Moses Ngure's home in Mariki village and stole his 30 sheep valued at Sh150,000.
The gang struck around midnight and after subduing two guards, they escaped with the sheep.
Mr Shikondi and his team, led by a special squad under the command of Chief Inspector Cleophas Juma, had by 6am recovered 17 of the sheep alive. Three others were dead.
Organised criminal network
"We found the thugs in a nearby forest trying to slaughter the loot. They ran away when they sensed our approach. It is now very clear we are dealing with an organised criminal network out to steal livestock for the meat market," Mr Shikondi said.
Eight sub-counties in Mt Kenya region have been zoned as prime ground for livestock theft. Authorities are now banking on special community policing schedules to beat the crime which is leaving farmers staring at an estimated Sh50 million loss every month.
The areas are Ndia in Kirinyaga, Mbere South in Embu, Kiharu, Murang’a South, Kigumo, Kandara, Ithanga/Kakuzi and Gatanga, which are estimated to be losing Sh600 million per year to the thieves hence aggravating poverty in the region.
The livestock theft menace that has become worse in the past two years, and locals have so far lynched eight suspects while police have arrested 53 so far, gunned down two while and recovered 684 stolen animals.
“In the process, police have also confiscated 26 motorcycles and eight motor vehicles found transporting contraband livestock and meat to the black market. It is a situation that we have classified as a crime of economic sabotage and I have ordered my officers to be dealing drastically with those nabbed in the act,” Central Region Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga said.
Mr Nyagwanga said some of the thieves normally carry guns which are mostly homemade.
“I have directed our security teams to shoot to kill anyone who will be found threatening lives with those arms,” Mr Nyagwanga said.
On his part, Maragua Assistant County Commissioner Joshua Okello said they are assembling an elite squad whose duty is to dismantle the livestock theft network.
“The squad will be led by police officers in collaboration with unit administrators. They will also have members of the public. All regional eateries and butcheries have been warned against buying meat from unauthorised sources and once nabbed doing the contrary, we will revoke their licenses,” Mr Okello said.
In Gatanga, Police boss Peter Muchemi said public involvement in dealing with the criminals is the best hope of taming the rustlers.
“What we need is to create confidence in the locals that once we are tipped, we handle that information with utmost integrity that does not endanger the whistle blowers,” he said.