Elephants Neighbours Centre organization has sensitized residents in Kilifi County on the conservation of elephants in efforts to create awareness and eradicate the human-wildlife conflicts that have created an unsafe environment for both the animals and the people in the region.
Led by the organization’s Executive Director Jim Justus Nyamu, the jumbo conservation team held a 15-day walk to talk to residents, visit schools, and government offices, and mobilize people across the county to create awareness of the importance of conserving the elephants.
During the 10th-day walk flag-off at Matanomane area in Ganze, Mr. Nyamu said they aim to enlighten the residents on how they can live in harmony with the animals and urged them to report any cases of invasion or attack to the authorities for the necessary actions including compensation.
“This walk is for giving sensitization to citizens on how to live with elephants as well as other wild animals,” he said.
The initiative which was themed ‘Ivory belongs to Elephants, also aimed at urging residents-turned-poachers to stop killing the elephants for their precious ivory.
Working closely with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the conservation group inform the residents affected by the elephants’ invasion that KWS officers were using all the available resources at their disposal to control the animals from residential areas to reduce the conflicts.
“The elephants have gone astray out of Tsavo East and are currently widespread because the animal park did not receive rains. They are very many but we have KWS officers stay in the bushes with them to make sure they do not destroy farms or invade schools or villages,” he said.
The team also warned residents against curiosity to see the elephants live, when they visit their areas or engage in running battles with them saying they expose themselves to great danger.
However, Mr. Nyamu expressed his disappointment after seeing KWS officers, who are the only government task force to protect the animals lack critical resources to carry out their daily duties.
“I found that KWS has not received enough support. I would like to ask the government to give them money. These people have no money. Their vehicles are in a bad state. Those officers whom the citizens are depending on for protection from the animals, do not have the transport to go and help those citizens,” he said.
Mrima wa Ndege area senior chief Karisa Chai said invasion by the stray elephants has been a disaster in the region for many years but the awareness has opened a new chapter to change the behavior of people towards the animals once they visit their areas.
“As we speak, we have a large number of elephants in our areas of residence. Even last night, yesterday night, not only at night, they can be found even during the day. They are spread everywhere. Residents have been always blaming KWS but this time they have agreed to follow the advice they are given,” he said.
Residents from Kaloleni, Mariakani, Bamba, Ganze centers were successfully engaged in the elephant talks and promised to handle the animals well and follow the laws and guidelines put in place in case of conflicts arise.
Matanomane village residents led by Simon Kitsao told the media that they have never had anything good to say about the destructive animals but they are slowly learning to cope with them after meeting the Elephants Neighbours center team.
“This issue of conservation of elephants has received a little hostility because we had not been educated on these aspects of caring for elephants. We thank our brother Jim who was able to visit our area and educated us on how to care for elephants even if they are within our area of Matanomane,” he said.
The walk for elephants is expected to reach its peak at Salagate, Chakama, and Shakahola areas near Tsavo East National park where the invasion of farms by elephants is rampant and end in Malindi on Saturday this week.
By Jackson Msanzu