State to build water pans to minimise wildlife-human conflict in Tsavo

 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 government will set up water pans in the Tsavo Conservation Area in Taita Taveta County to mitigate water shortages for wildlife affected by drought.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials said the government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, will build 12 water pans in ranches and conservancies bordering Tsavo National Park.

Earlier this year, the ministry dug a similar number of water pans in strategic areas in the park to mitigate the effects of the drought.

The water pans will help curb human-wildlife conflict around the park, said Kennedy Ochieng, KWS senior assistant director in charge of the Tsavo ecosystem.

The ongoing drought has forced wildlife, especially elephants, to invade human settlements in search of water and pasture.

Residents have also complained about lions and hyenas invading peoples’ homes and killing their livestock.

"If wildlife gets enough water, the incidents of invasions in communities will reduce," he said.

Mr Ochieng cited climate change as a key threat to wildlife conservation efforts in Kenya.

Last year, 78 elephants succumbed to the ravaging drought in the Tsavo area.

Taita Taveta is a human-wildlife conflict hotspot.

Frequent invasions are blamed on lack of water and pasture in the protected area and in conservancies and ranches bordering Tsavo.

Despite the invasions and the suffering brought by the attacks, affected residents have not been compensated for their losses.

Meanwhile, the government has released more than Sh206 million to compensate victims of wildlife attacks in the county. 

Governor Andrew Mwadime and County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara said the funds will go to those affected from 2014 to June 2021.

Among them are 16 families whose relatives died in wildlife attacks.

Some 67 people were injured and 228 farms damaged. 

"The government will [give] Sh530,000 each to 50 people whose houses were destroyed by elephants," Mr Kibaara said.

"Relatives of victims killed by wildlife will be paid Sh5 million each. Those injured will be paid between Sh50,000 and Sh1 million, depending on the injuries inflicted. We also rely on medical reports," Mr Kibaara said.

Since June last year, the government has received claims worth Sh139 million for deaths, injuries and damage to crops and property. 

For his part, Governor Mwadime said despite the losses, residents had not benefited much from the wildlife. 

"I have been receiving many complaints from residents. I am holding talks with the government to see how my people can benefit from the park," he said.

The park occupies more than 60 per cent of the county's land. 

Residents are also pushing KWS to be allowed to graze their livestock in the park during the dry season.