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Friday, 22 February 2013

Elephants terrorize residents of Laikipia

By Samwel Wanjohi

Residents of Laikipia for the last decade have had to learn how to live with the constant invasion of the elephants. To them, these members of the big five have only come to put checks on their only source of income-agriculture. Despite claims that forest areas of Naibrom, Naigara and Gatundia where these animals reside will have an electric fence; little has been done to avert the menace. Elephants have had a field day in people’s farms and homesteads.

Locals have only wondered whether the terror reigned on them is a silent message from the authorities asking them to abandon their livestock and domesticate elephants! The effect of this has gradually spread from the productive dairy lands of Muhotetu to horticultural potential Marmanet and currently residents of Sipili are leaving in awe. One question the people have been asking themselves is, if the government can afford aerial counting using airplanes, why can’t they afford to keep these dangerous mammals in their right places of abode?
Photo of an elephant attacking man

The past two weeks saw a man in Chereta area of Muhotetu break his leg while running away from the elephants that invaded his homestead. What is annoying is that the man cannot claim compensation for his broken leg because the elephants did not directly broke him but happened while running for his dear life. Two farmers in Karaba reportedly had their horticultural farms destroyed.

The dry spell in Laikipia is literally spelling doom to farmers. The crops while battling for survival only end up being ruined by elephants. Farmers fear that even if these crops escape the menace in the farm they may still be followed to the store by elephants who dread no one.

The recent aggressiveness they have exhibited is enough for the people to raise the red flag. These animals have resorted to roaming in groups. This is dangerous to those who would wish to play the sentry role. One may never know how many groups are in a particular area in a certain time.

Residents are now accustomed to hearing sounds of drums and tins and constant shouts and screams accompanied by curses in a bid to scare them away. The once fenced farms are like plain fields. Fences have been trampled by these fearless animals. Farms are turning to cemented surfaces because of the heavy weight elephants pass on them while tresspassing.

Education has not been left behind by effects of elephant menace. Fear has gripped villages on the fate of school children who must wake up and leave for school very early in the morning. Coincidentally these early morning hours are the time elephants troop back to the forest. Incidences have been reported where learners meet these animals posing danger to their lives.

Most of these elephants come from conservancies. Little if any has been known on the benefits these conservancies pass to residents. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the owners of these conservancies do not pass the benefits to the country. It is reported that the guests who visit them pay money to their foreign accounts and pose as family friends visiting their hosts. This is a widespread knowledge among residents of Laikipia and thus increasing the tension between rangers and farmers.

One farmer quipped “we only wake up every morning to find a mountain of dung and dry ponds of water an indication that we really feed these animals. They feed enough to the extent that they litter twigs and branches of trees everywhere. I haven’t seen even a single coin these elephants bring to us. They only attract tourists at night using our produce. It is even sad to know that the owners don’t pay revenue to the country but remit them to their homes. It is better we have our crops because we pay taxes than to host animals for others to benefit from.”

Government plans to settle the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Muhotetu. Residents are ready to welcome their new neighbors albeit with concern that they came from one problem only to end up in another.

Although Laikipia has pockets of parched lands, most of it is rich in good agricultural soil suitable for mixed farming. Residents are asking concerned parties to step up measures to alleviate the age-old problems of elephant invasion to enable them realize the fruits of their labor.

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