Nairobi — An elephant is a treasured national asset and one that is considered vulnerable and requires State protection due to its invaluable tusks.
Whereas conservationists will spend millions of dollars to keep them alive, the paradox is that some communities in Kenya are doing what they can to have them eliminated.
Some 80 Kilometres to the South of Nairobi is Olemurkat sub-location in Kajiado County.
Residents in the area complain that a herd of 13 elephants has been terrorising them and want them relocated.
They say the huge mammals have smashed their manyattas, destroyed the only crop that survived the dry season and have vowed to kill them unless urgent action is taken.
“Elephants are very many here. The big problem is that they fell trees on our farms and invade our homesteads. When they enter our homes, our animals flee and enter the bush and the following morning we have to look for them,” Olemurkat Assistant Chief Francis Nailole says.
In most cases, they don’t get all their goats and cows back; “some are eaten by other animals in the bush while others get lost.”
Because of the elephant invasion, Esilalei Primary School Head teacher Julius Neboo says regular school learning has been disrupted.
“Elephants are really disturbing learning in the school which is making it difficult for the young children go to school on time. Most of the time, they don’t come because of the roaming elephants within the school compound,” the headmaster complained.
A week ago, a herd of elephants invaded the small compound of the school.
They drunk every drop of water harvested in the school’s 5,000 litre black plastic container installed in front of the classes.
They felled trees and munched on green leaves and soft branches in the compound before walking away and recklessly felling any tree they found on their way.
All this happened as children trembled and feared that next the charged mammals would turn and invade them in their classrooms.
Simon Katembo and Ann Kishiengop who are parents at Esilalei say they have abandoned their daily chores to escort and pick their children to and from school.
“We are scared. Those big animals sometimes take over our roads. Sometimes they become very wild. We have to stop working to take our children to school,” Katembo complained.
Though Nailole has reported the menace to the KWS office in Kajiado on several occasions, the residents are unhappy that little action has been taken to protect them and their farms.
Instead, they have been warned against harming the elephants.
What pains the locals is that despite the destruction of trees, they have been told by KWS that the trees belong to the government hence it shouldn’t bother them when elephants knock them down.
“I went to their office and they told me that we should be cautious and we should not complain about trees and elephants because they all belong to the government. But that is unfair because if I invade Amboseli National Park with my cows, will I not be arrested?” Nailole asked. 1 | 2
He said were it not for the directive by KWS, the residents would kill all the elephants interfering with their livelihood. “Maasais are not afraid, if it’s not for the government, we would have killed those elephants.”
A KWS officer who requested anonymity admitted that a group of elephants had strayed from the Amboseli National Park and were roaming in villages in Kajiado County.
“Yes we are aware there is a herd of elephants in those areas. There are a lot of mitigation measures happening. Kajiado officers have been patrolling the area.” He said.
According to founder and the Executive Director for Elephant Neighbours Centre, Jim Nyamu, invasion by elephants in communities is inevitable due to struggle for water, pasture and protection.
In his view, KWS should look for long term solutions of reduce the human-elephant conflict by establishing conservancies and engaging communities to benefit from them.
In April this year, KWS removed about ten elephants and transported them to the Aberdare and Amboseli parks.
“Should we keep on removing these elephants? The reason why they are coming closer to people is because there is what it takes for them to survive. The only way is to identify how to live with them. Removing one elephant is very expensive. We cannot keep on transporting these animals.”
“We have to look on how we can contain them. We have to address this from the point of education to show the communities that the elephants belong to them and they have to look for ways of living with them. We have now the natural resources and benefits sharing and they will benefit from elephants and other animals.”
The residents now say they have lost their patience and are planning a demonstration on Saturday to ask KWS to salvage the situation before they agree to protect themselves using ‘whatever means’.
According to them, they are not reaping any benefits but instead, they are a terrorised community that has been drenched into fear and destruction left by the 13 elephants.