Mruttu locks KWS Voi offices to protest stray jumbo menace (Kenya)


Raphael Mwadime

Date Published

Tsavo conservation area assistant director Robert Obrien and Taita Taveta Governor John Mruttu at the KWS offices in Sofia, Voi, on Monday.

Taita Taveta Governor John Mruttu and county legislators on Monday locked the KWS offices at Sofia, Voi, to protest against marauding elephants.

They ordered staff to move to Tsavo National Park.

The governor and lawmakers said residents are fed up with persistent human-wildlife conflict.

The leaders said the Kenya Wildlife Service collects millions of shillings in revenue but residents do not benefit because their property is destroyed by wild animals.

Mruttu said the marauding elephants have destroyed crops, leaving residents with no food.

“We are locking up these offices to send a strong message to the government that we are tired of the problems we endure from wildlife,” he said.

Mruttu was with Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime, Voi MP Jones Mlolwa and MCAs.

They met at a Voi hotel on Monday to discuss the ongoing human-wildlife conflict and agreed to lock up the KWS offices.

Senior KWS officers, including Tsavo conservation area assistant director Robert Obrien, were stranded inside the compound until anti-riot police from Voi broke the chains on the gate and let them out.

“The elephants have imposed an illegal curfew in the region. Students cannot go to school early in the morning because of the elephants. They are also forced to leave from school early for fear of attacks by the elephants,” Mlolwa said.

On Monday, KWS launched an air and ground operation to drive back stray elephants to Tsavo.

Senior warden in charge of community wildlife services Dickson Too said they had driven back 30 elephants at Mariwenyi near Voi town.

“We have received a chopper from Nairobi and a ground team from the Problem Animal Control unit,” he said.

Too blamed construction of the standard gauge railway for straying elephants.

“… the railway line has blocked traditional migration routes of elephants from Tsavo East and West. The elephants find alternative ways and in the process move to the villages,” he told the Star on the phone.

But the SGR is not the only problem.

Mwadime urged the government to drive out herders illegally grazing livestock in Tsavo.

He said they are killing tourism and displacing the elephants.

It is estimated more than 400,000 livestock graze illegally in Tsavo National Park.

It is said the livestock belong to influential people in the Jubilee government.

“Taita-Taveta people, out of their love for conservation, gave out 62 per cent of their land for wildlife conservation. But … it has now been turned into one big ranch,” Maktau MCA Flumence Mshila said.

Mruttu said residents whose property and crops have been destroyed have not been compensated one year down the line.

Mwadime said KWS has failed in its mandate.

“There is no peace at Mariwenyi, Mgeno, Aliya, Mwashoti, Maktau, Bura, Kituma and Mlalenyi villages. Our people worked hard preparing their farms but the elephants have cleared all their crops,” he said.

“KWS should prepare to start distributing relief food to our people.”