A county executive has accused the Kenya Wildlife Service(KWS) of failing to contain the human-wildlife conflicts in Taita –Taveta county, leading to continued loss of lives and destruction of property worth millions of shillings.
Alexander Mwangeka of tourism, wildlife and environment lamented that despite the billions of shillings collected by the national government as revenue from wildlife, the local communities were still living in poverty because they were not deriving direct benefits from wildlife.
“We are petitioning the president to take action on the persistent human-wildlife conflicts in our county which have now reached explosive proportions”, said Mwangeka during a press conference at a Voi hotel.
The executive pointed out that elephants have been leaving the park in search of pastures and water especially in Tsavo West due to the prolonged dry spell and the invasion of the game conservancy by over 4,000 livestock which are competing for survival with game.
Some of the illegal grazers are also believed to engage in poaching.
“We want to put it clear to the Government that the people of Taita-Taveta cannot be held hostage by marauding wildlife as KWS sits back and does nothing,” said a visibly concerned Mwangeka.
He pointed out that at the moment there were 24 jumbos which had gone on the rampage at Aliya and Kituma areas of Mwatate sub-county causing havoc as residents lived in fear of being attacked.
“An area like Bura in Mwatate sub-county which is prone to persistent human-wildlife conflicts only has 2 rangers who are too few to address the wildlife conflicts,” said Mwangeka.
“The bad blood between local communities and wildlife can only be atoned if KWS puts its act together by restricting game inside the protected areas as well as carrying out community development projects that will bring direct benefits to the local communities who live with wildlife”, said the executive.
He at the same time revealed that his ministry was seeking about Sh 165m for the current county budget to undertake its activities of which part of the funds would go towards the training of community wildlife and forest rangers.
“About Sh22.5 m would go towards the training and equipment of county forest rangers to effectively man our forests in the wake of severe shortage of rangers from the Kenya Forest Service”, he said.
At the moment, said Mwangeka, the KFS only had 16 rangers to man the whole county which has 68 forests, a number he said was sourly inadequate.
Mwangeka at the same time warned charcoal burners who operated outside the ambit of charcoal producers associations that they would be arrested and prosecuted once it was proved that they were engaging in the destruction of the environment.
“Already we have banned charcoal production from Makwasinyi village in Kasigau area of Voi sub-county following massive destruction of the environment”, he revealed, adding that while charcoal business was not illegal per se, it had to be done under the laid down regulations without compromising environmental standards.