Transport along Nairobi-Mombasa Highway was on Friday paralyzed for hours after hundreds of residents from Sagalla village blocked the road protesting over invasion of elephants in their farms.
Led by Sagalla Member of County Assembly (MCA) Godwin Kilele, the residents walked for over 12-kilometres, from Kirumbi area to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) community centre at Sofia village in Voi to lodge their complaints on the jumbo menace.
Carrying banners, twigs and maize stalks, the angry residents marched along the busy highway causing a massive traffic snarl-ups.
Dozens of police officers from Voi Police Station worked frantically to clear the highway as they used teargas to disperse the villagers who tried to block the road.
Mr. Kilele said KWS was not doing anything to handle over 400 elephants that were terrorizing the villagers destroying their farms.
He added that the rangers deployed in Sagalla were ineffective and were overwhelmed by the sheer number of jumbos in the area.
He demanded that KWS drives away the elephant from the area within seven-days without fail.
“We are only giving you seven days to make sure that all the elephants in Sagalla are driven back to Tsavo,” said the MCA.
He regretted that despite the massive losses the residents incurred every year from elephants’ invasion, there was no tangible benefit the people got from the animals.
Senior warden for Community Service Zainabu Salim said KWS was doing everything within its powers to drive away the elephants.
She added that rangers were deployed in the area and promised to step-up the patrols.
She confirmed that compensation for those affected by jumbo menace had not been done by KWS stating that her office had processed over 1,500 claims since 2014.
“We have forwarded all claims for compensation and it the treasury that allocates money for that exercise,” she said.
She further said the county leaders should work closely with KWS to revamp County Wildlife Conservation and Compensation Committee to ensure all concerns arising from wildlife were addressed.
Since November, there has been a sharp influx of elephants in Sagalla area. The influx is attributed to migration season whereby thousands of elephants move from Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania to Tsavo East National Park.
Sagalla area and its environs is considered as a wildlife migration corridor and every year experiences elephant invasion.
The KWS has revealed plans to install an electric fence from Alia to Kamutonga in a bid to stem human/wildlife conflict.
There is also a proposal to have a Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) stationed permanently in the area to handle the elephants’ invasion.
Ms. Cecilia Mshambwa, a resident whose four-acre farm of maize was laid bare on Christmas Day said the cycle of annual invasion had impoverished the residents.
She said that in 2017 and 2018, the residents staged demos to protest over the jumbos but nothing changed.
“We were here again last year protesting over these elephants. We are always given promises that are never fulfilled,” said Ms. Mshambwa.
By Wagema Mwangi