County writes to government over elephant menace

The Taita-Taveta County government has written to the national government to set up a crisis meeting to help address the widespread human-wildlife conflict in the region.

In a letter addressed to the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Prof Judy Wakhungu, Governor John Mruttu decried the unprecedented influx of elephants and other wild animals into human settlement areas in Taita Taveta county .

The Governor said that there was urgent need for the ministry, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the county officials to find a lasting solution that would keep the lives and property of the residents secure.

“The massive presence of cattle inside the national park has displaced hundreds of jumbo herds. The cattle need to be driven out for elephants to find space inside the protected areas,” he said.

The letter notes that once the elephants are safely inside the park, the government should install a fence to separate human settlement areas and the national park.

The letter calls for the creation of an elaborate plan to stop the constant conflicts between residents and elephants.

The governor alleged that elephants have become so bold that they were roaming some few kilometers from Voi town in broad daylight.

He added that the presence of the jumbos endangered the lives of the residents.

The letter dated January 12 regrets that thousands of compensation cases were reported in KWS office but no compensation had been done. This was impoverishing the local residents.

The letter comes a week after the governor led over 20 Members of County Assembly and two MPs from the region threaten to close down KWS offices in Voi town to protest the elephant invasion in people’s farms.

During the confrontation at the KWS Community Center in Sofia, the governor said the facility should remain closed before being re-organised to enable it deal effectively with the jumbo menace.

“We don’t see the need for this center as elephants have run amok amongst us. It should be closed until it is properly reorganised,” he said.

MCAs later locked the main gate of the building and left as KWS officials and rangers watched.

Later, the gate was opened on the orders of Voi Deputy County Commissioner Khamasi Shivogho who said all conflicts among leaders should be resolved through dialogue.

Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant Director Robert Obrein said that rangers were spending sleepless nights driving back the elephants back to the park.

He said that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the increase in traffic along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway had contributed to the crisis.

“We are driving the herd that had strayed out back into the park. Major projects have contributed to this as animal corridors have been tampered with,” he said.

By Wagema Mwangi

Source: Kenya News Agency