The government has released Sh206 million as compensation for hundreds of residents in Taita-Taveta County for deaths and damages to crops and property arising from human-wildlife conflict in the Tsavo Ecosystem.
This compensation covers all pending claims recorded from 2014 to 2021.
Speaking in Mwatate, Taita-Taveta County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara said the government was committed to paying all legitimate claims arising from human-wildlife conflict while devising strategies on how such challenges can be addressed.
He added that adverse effects of climate change had contributed largely to the conflicts witnessed in the region and called for collaboration between state and non-state actors in combating the menace.
“This money will go to those claims that were recorded from between 2014 to 2021. We hope all stakeholders will work together to find a lasting solution to this recurrent problem,” he said.
The County Commissioner further disclosed that Sh139 million worth of compensation for the year 2021-2022 is being processed and added that the claimants would receive their monies once the process was complete.
Mr Kibaara was accompanied by Taita-Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Senior Assistant Director in-charge of Tsavo Conservation Area, Kennedy Ochieng.
The compensation breakdown shows that Sh80 million will compensate for 16 deaths, Sh12.5 million for 67 injuries, Sh106 million for 228 cases of crop destruction, Sh6 million for livestock predation and Sh5.1 million for destruction of houses.
Pending compensation claims for 2021-2022 include claims for 12 deaths, 838 cases of crop destruction, nine injuries and 155 reports of property destruction.
Governor Andrew Mwadime hailed the national government for compensating local residents who bear the brunt of human-wildlife conflict.
He added that the county government would continuously engage the national government and KWS in order to find sustainable ways of eliminating the conflicts.
Governor Mwadime further stated that plans were underway to have a leaders’ meeting in the region to deliberate on how all agencies can pool resources to address the wildlife menace in community areas.
He pointed out that with the looming threat of climate change, there was a need to adopt sustainable solutions to the conflicts between residents and wildlife that stray from Tsavo National Park.
“We will have a major meeting with all stakeholders to adopt a working structure that will enable everyone to contribute to elimination of this menace. It is possible for humans and wildlife to live together but leaders should take the initiative of eliminating conflicts,” he said.
The governor also disclosed that the county would engage KWS to explore ways to get some revenue from the expansive Tsavo National Park through payment of land rates.
He explained that Tsavo, with a land size of 63 percent, was duty bound to pay some revenue to the county to ensure residents appreciated the value of the park and wildlife.
Mr Ochieng said that KWS had deployed adequate manpower and resources to combat cases of elephants and other wild animals that stray from the protected areas.
The conservation boss said KWS has adopted a raft of measures, both short-term and long-term, to combat the incursion of wildlife in human settlement areas. One of the most urgent short-term interventions was deployment of mobile ranger units to the conflict hotspots. Such areas are Kasighau, Marungu, Sagalla and Miasenyi in Voi Sub-County; Bura, Maktau and Msorongo in Mwatate Sub-County; Mata and Jipe in Taveta Sub-County and Kishushe area in Wundanyi Sub-County.
He further stated that a quick-response team had also been created to support the rangers’ units on the ground.
“The teams are there to respond quickly to emergencies and they have been assisting the communities to deal with wildlife that has strayed,” he said.
There are also resources for air-support with a chopper and a fixed-wing plane being on standby to boost the ground operations.
Amongst the long-term solutions to curb wildlife menace in the Tsavo Ecosystem include erection of electric fences that will create a barrier between conservation areas and community zones. Amongst the fences to be erected are Alia-Kamutonga fence and the 110-km Mgeno-Wushumbu-Amaka-Kasighau-Bachuma fence.
Already, feasibility studies indicated the fence can be very effective in curbing this menace with a special migration corridor being created to allow herds of elephants to move freely from Tsavo East National Park to Tsavo West National Park.
KWS has also dug 12 water pans inside the park to harvest water for wild animals. Plans are underway to construct a dozen more water pans in conservancies and ranches to reduce the movement of elephants into community areas where they stray in search of water.
By Wagema Mwangi