On The Frontline


Jane Wynyard/Save the Elephants

Date Published

Protecting communities and elephants in a conflict hotspot

Wilson Lelukumani in front of a community water tower protected from elephants ©Jane Wynyard

Spare a thought for Save the Elephants’ rapid responder, Wilson Lelukumani, who lives and works in a human-elephant conflict hotspot in Ngaremara, northern Kenya.

When his phone isn’t ringing off the hook with locals complaining about damage caused by elephants, he’s rushing to cool tension when conflict arises, escorting school children past wild elephants and rescuing orphaned calves. In July, an elephant charged his motorbike and he ended up with broken bones. Months later, he was digging trenches in the hard sun-baked ground of Daaba, helping rebuild elephant-damaged community water pipes.

As the drought continues to ravage northern Kenya, conflict over resources is at an all-time high. Last year, a female elephant fleeing irate villagers one evening trampled a bystander. The next day the same thing happened again, but this time the villagers took lethal revenge. In the village of Ariamawoi, elephants ate nearly a month’s livestock feed after breaking into a terrified family’s hut. In the nearby settlement of Daaba, elephants destroyed water points and drinking troughs, depriving the community of their source of water.

Wilson’s excellent diplomatic skills means he is able to calm people down, stop them from retaliating against elephants and secure the support and/or medical intervention they need. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a crucial one for creating a harmonious future between humans and elephants.

Says Wilson,“Because of this terrible drought, elephants are coming into settlements looking for food and water. I’m getting calls day and night so I hope the rain comes soon. I’ve never seen a drought this bad. Tension is high. But we can’t give up, the community and elephants need us.”

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