KWS declines herders' request to graze in Tsavo park

 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

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has declined a request by Taita Taveta ranchers for their livestock to graze in Tsavo National Park.  

The ranchers, led by the Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association chairperson Mcharo Bong'osa, had requested the government to allocate part of the park to cushion livestock from the ongoing drought.  

Statistics from the association show that over 2,600 livestock from local ranches have died and thousands are emaciated following the drought that has ravaged the conservancies. 

Declining their plea, KWS Director-General John Waweru said the law had banned livestock from grazing in the park. 

"That is not something we're allowed by law to do. However, we can discuss with the community how we can assist their livestock by taking animal feeds to them and not by allowing them to graze in the park," he said. 

"We will get partners who can help take animal feeds to the community." 

Allowing livestock in the park, he argued, would create challenges including an outbreak of zoonotic diseases that would affect both the livestock and wildlife.  

He said herders had invaded a section of the park, forcing the KWS to use large amounts of money to drive out the thousands of livestock from the protected area. 

"I understand the drought situation that has affected the livestock. But the law has not given us such an arrangement. I don't make the law, so if the law is amended in Parliament then we will follow," he said.

But Taveta MP John Bwire said the 2013 Wildlife Conservation and Management Act allows grazing in the national park during droughts. 

Mr Bwire, who is also a lawyer, quoted Section 102(4) of the Act that states that the Cabinet Secretary “shall make guidelines in consultation with the service with respect to accessing national parks for purposes of grazing and watering of livestock in times of drought and other natural disasters”. 

Speaking in Voi, the MP said the KWS should give residents guidelines on where they are allowed to graze their livestock as provided in the law. 

He said the KWS was not willing to help residents whose livestock were dying due to the effects of the drought. 

"The drought we are facing has been aggravated by the invasions of wildlife in our farms. They have depleted our water sources and pasture," he said. 

He claimed the KWS decision was made in bad faith. 

"There is no goodwill from KWS. We are suffering because of wildlife. Our huge chunk of land is occupied by the park yet we are not benefiting from it," he said. 

Mr Bwire vowed to table a motion in the National Assembly to compel the KWS to create guidelines on allowing communities living around protected wildlife areas to graze their animals in the park during calamities like droughts. 

"We will do that immediately because our people are incurring huge losses by losing their livestock," he said.