he Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has deployed a rapid response team from the Problematic Animal Management Unit (PAMU) to quell the rising cases of human –wildlife conflict in Mtito Andei, Makueni county.
County Commissioner Maalim Mohammed said the team will conduct both aerial and ground surveillance to curb attacks of wild animals that stray from the nearby Tsavo West National Park.
Maalim said besides the patrols, the team will also set up two camps to keep vigil and ensure that wild animals, especially elephants do not stray into the villagers’ homes and farms.
“The camps will be set up in Yikitaa and Ngiluni areas while mobile ones will be established in Iviani and Kyusiani to curb the human –wildlife attacks,” he said.
The county commissioner also disclosed that David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rangers will complement efforts by KWS to resolve the current wildlife crisis in the area.
“The trust will have a chopper standby that will help drive the stray animals back to the park. Already 19 elephants that were roaming in the area have been driven back,” said Maalim.
The administrator regretted the recent attack in the area in which a 73-year-old -man was trampled to death by lone elephant in Ngiluni village on December 30 and appealed for calm saying the government was committed in providing both a short term and a lasting solution to the problem.
‘‘The human wildlife conflict is a long-standing issue in Mtito Andei where people have lost their lives while others have been injured and property worth millions destroyed. The government is committed to ensuring that both the people and the animals are protected,” added Maalim.
The county commissioner noted that Makueni was one of the hotspots of human- wildlife conflicts in the country with KWS compensating Sh95.6 million to affected residents between 2014 and 2016.
“The total cases reported within that period were 1,058 among them five deaths, 76 injuries while crops in 898 farms were destroyed. We are in the process of vetting others and once the process is through the affected victims will be paid,’’ assured Maalim, while addressing residents in Ngiluni on Thursday during a crisis meeting.
Area MP Jessica Mbalu speaking in the same meeting, asked KWS to speedily deal with the issue to enable learners resume learning.
“Enrollment in many schools in the area is low as students have kept away for fear of attacks by the stray jumbos,” said Mbalu.
The MP also called on the government to provide relief food to the residents saying their farms’ crops had been destroyed by elephants.
“The residents should be given a priority in the distribution of relief food. They should also be compensated for the destruction,” noted the legislator.
Earlier in the meeting, residents lamented over the wildlife menace and asked the government to put an electric fence along the park to prevent the animals from straying.
“The human-wildlife crisis is a long-standing problem that should be solved once for all. As residents we have suffered enough and an electric fence would completely curb the problem,” said Mutunga Mutangili, a resident.
Mutangili also called on KWS to fast-track the compensation of affected residents.
“KWS has not fulfilled its promise to compensate us despite filling the requisite forms,” he lamented.
By Roselyne Kavoo