Drought escalates human-wildlife conflict in Taita Taveta

 A herder blocks his cattle to give way to elephants at Choke ranch in Taita Taveta County. The ongoing drought has made livestock and wildlife share water in the local ranches.

Photo credit: Liucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

As drought continues to ravage most parts of Kenya, human-wildlife conflict has escalated in Taita Taveta County. 

The sight of wild animals seeking pasture and water in human settlements has become the order of the day.

Last month, three people were injured by elephants in Voi sub-county, while livestock were killed by hungry lions and leopards.
Schoolchildren now report late in the morning and go home early in the afternoon to avoid being attacked by marauding elephants. 

The fight for resources, especially water, between the wildlife and residents has escalated in the county, which borders the vast Tsavo National Park. 

Elephants from Tsavo now roam freely in villages, destroying water points.

Despite the security concerns, residents complain that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is doing little to avert the threats. 

Ezra Mdamu, a resident of Kasigau, said elephants have been roaming in the area for the last six months.

He said the drought has not spared parks, wildlife reserves and ranches.

"We live next to ranches and the park and we are seeing the situation inside these protected areas is not good. Human-wildlife conflict has been worsened by the ongoing drought," he said.

On Sunday, an elderly man was injured by elephants at his home in Kasigau. 

Mr Kilongola Mwandoto was attacked by the jumbos and left with serious injuries in his leg and back.

He was treated at Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi and is recuperating at home.

"Apart from injuring people, the elephants have destroyed our tanks and water points. We are suffering," Mr Mdamu said.

Despite the losses, some residents have not been compensated. 

Senator Jones Mwaruma said he is pushing to have the Wildlife Conservation and Management (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed by the National Assembly. 

Under the bill, which seeks to change the 2013 Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, victims of human-wildlife conflict will be compensated within one year.

"The bill was put on the shelves of the National Assembly because they said it is a money bill. Money bills are supposed to originate from the National Assembly," he said. 

He said he will work with his colleagues in the House to pass the bill.

"I am looking for one of our MPs to sponsor the bill. They pass it then it comes to the Senate," he said.

He said he is also following up with the government to ensure that residents are compensated.

"I followed up with compensation and we got some Sh70 million. However, we have a huge backlog, so we will continue pushing," he said.

Kennedy Ochieng, the KWS officer in charge of the Tsavo Conservation Area, said his agency is addressing residents’ concerns. 

"We are working with the communities so that whenever the wildlife are spotted, officers from KWS move in," he said.