By: LABAN ROBERT
llegal herders in Tsavo National Park are poaching elephants for tusks, Taita-Taveta County Tourism Executive Alexander Mwangeka has said.
Speaking in Taveta Sub-County, Mr Mwangeka blamed county security agents of failing to arrest the grazers, who are well known.
In the last two weeks, seven elephants have been killed despite increased efforts to stop the menace, which is threatening to wipe the animals out of Kenya’s conservancies.
“We are aware of those who are involved in the killing of elephants. Two weeks ago, we lost five elephants, two days ago we had two elephants killed.
“The poachers are not coming from outside the country. They are part of the people doing illegal grazing.
“They are the ones causing insecurity in the conservancy,” Mr Mwangeka said on Saturday.
The executive said more than 3,500 livestock have been traversing the vast Tsavo East and West parks in search of pasture despite it being a protected area.
LAXITY FROM POLICE
Efforts by the county government of Taita-Taveta to flush out the grazers have been met with “complacency” and “laxity” from the police, Mr Mwangeka said.
“The county security committee is not doing enough to flush out illegal grazers.
“This is because there are powerful people who have their livestock in the park.
“There must be sincere efforts to ensure the grazers are flushed out of the conservancy,” he said.
The local community must also be involved in taming the persistent killing of the elephants, Mr Mwangeka said.
He called on the National Government to sensitise locals to appreciate and protect the elephants adding that the locals need to see the benefit they get from the resources so as to be part of the protection of the heritage.
Executive Director of Elephant Neighbours Centre Jim Nyamu supported the idea of engaging locals to protect the animals which, he said, may be extinct if the poaching continues at the current rate.
“We are going to lose more clients to this conservancy. There must be goodwill from the community, the county and Members of Parliament.
“Statistics show 78 per cent of poaching is happening outside the park. This means the community is playing a significant role in this.
“Intelligence shows the standard gauge railway and the construction of the Mwatate-Taveta road has contributed to increased poaching,” Mr Nyamu said.
The fresh claims of involvement of the grazers contradicts a statement from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) statement released after the five elephant were killed.
KWS communication officer Paul Udoto said a groupof four poachers operating along the Kenya-Tanzania border is involved in the menace.
Two suspects were arrested in a manyatta in Ndoomani, Kajiado County, following a Kenya-Tanzania security operation.