Human-wildlife conflict rocks Rimoi as Kerio river dries up (Kenya)


Stephen Rutto, The Star

Date Published

See link for photo.

Residents of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo county living near the reserve said marauding elephants and hyenas are invading homes in search for water.

Kerio river experienced low water levels and eventually dried during the dry season. The river has never dried before.

Its tributaries, locals said, have dried following deforestation in forests in the highlands. Nelson Chebet, a resident, asked the Kenya Wildlife Service to provide water for wild animals. Chebet said several boreholes have dried up due to a long dry spell, as humans and wild animals scramble for water in the same sources.

He urged KWS to deploy water bowsers to supply water to thirsty wild animals that are now invading private farms and homes in search of the scarce commodity.

“We have dug additional boreholes to help wild animals because we are culturally attached to elephants, baboons and hyenas and other animals. We have learnt to accommodate animals,” he said.

He said more wild animals and livestock may die due to the persistent drought and drying of water sources.

“We have a big problem here. You wake up in the morning and you find an elephant outside your house. We are forced to put basins full of water outside our houses for wild animals to drink,” resident Hilda Chepkieny said.

Jumbos Killed

At least three elephants in the game reserve have been killed as a result of the acute water shortage. KWS has reported that one elephant was killed recently as it sought water from a nearby borehole on the Elgeyo Marakwet-Baringo border.

Rimoi Game Reserve warden in-charge Melipiche Letomo said poachers are capitilising on the rising human-wildlife conflict to kill jumbos for tusks.

“River Kerio is now dry and boreholes dug by residents living adjacent to the reserve remain the only source of water for livestock and wild animals,” Letomo said. He said the carcass of one elephant was discovered without tusks by KWS wardens who were on patrol.

“In the last one month, we have lost three elephants because of conflicts over water,” he said. The warden said the poachers dropped the tusks at Kapnorok KWS station in Baringo county last week on Wednesday night after the service issued an ultimatum on Tuesday.

He said some residents use the reserve as a grazing field, while others have beehives inside the reserve, putting the lives of elephants at risk.

“Some residents guard their boreholes by lighting fires near the water sources. This is escalating the conflicts,” Letomo said.