The construction of the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR) is among the new developments that is exacerbating elephant conflicts in Taita-Taveta county.
The project has tampered with the traditional elephant migration corridors in Tsavo national park leading to huge herd getting stranded and confused in some areas during their migration, leading to human-wildlife conflicts.
Speaking during celebrations to mark this year's Jamhuri Day at Mwatate primary school in Mwatate sub-county KWS community wildlife officer Stephen Kuserem said that elephant conflicts had increased in areas where the SGR had blocked the migration corridors of elephants from Tsavo East and West especially at Ndara,Bachuma and Ndii.
“Elephants are getting confused and running amok every time they encounter huge mounds of earth erected along their migration routes in the ongoing SGR project. In the process they are causing havoc by destroying crops and even endangering lives,” said the officer.
Kuserem pointed out that elephants are very intelligent animals and know their traditional migration routes which they cannot abandon easily.
The KWS officer was reacting to complaints by Mwatate ward MCA Eresmus Mwarabu who sought an explanation as to why jumbos were causing havoc by destroying crops at Mgeno reserve yet rains had come and there was plenty of water and pastures inside the park.
The KWS officer said that there was a huge herd of jumbos near Maktau heading towards Tsavo West which the conservation parastatal was fighting to control despite the numerous challenges being faced.
“There is a herd of about 200 jumbos near Maktau area which we are safely driving back to Tsavo West so that they do not cause havoc in the area,” said Kuserem.
However, he lamented that the Taita-Taveta county government had neglected issues of human- wildlife conflicts mitigation to KWS, saying that this was a sensitive matter that required synergy between both arms of government to address.
“We have approached the county government to assist us in areas such as providing fuel and vehicles for tackling human- wildlife conflicts but so far we have not received any assistance” said Kuserem.
Addressing wananchi during the celebrations, Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime accused KWS of closing its eyes while thousands of illegal livestock belonging to prominent people in government continued grazing inside Tsavo West.
“The truth of the matter is that human- wildlife conflicts involving elephants have been contributed partly by the huge herds of livestock grazing in Tsavo which are competing with elephants for both water and pastures, forcing jumbos to move out of the park”, said Mwadime; warning that the livestock must be flushed out however prominent and influential their owners were.
1: The ongoing SGR construction near Voi town
2:Jumbos in Tsavo
3:Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime