Two days after an elephant killed a man in Kajiado, Kenya Wildlife Service personnel has kicked off operations to move the beasts from farms.
The operation that started early in the morning on Sunday is headed by KWS’s Head of Problem Animal Unit, Vincent Ongwae, and is expected to go on until all the stray elephants are driven off from settlement areas bordering Kyulu Hills National Park.
Ongwae said his men will be launching ground and air operation using trucks and aircraft to drive the beasts away from farms.
“We should have started this operation by 6 am, but visibility for our pilots is really bad as we speak. I will be letting you know what has happened when the clouds clear,” said Ongwae at 8.30 am.
The official said on Saturday night a team of KWS rangers from Kiboko carried out extensive patrol following the attack on Friday.
“The team completed the search without seeing any elephants and the area was calm. This morning another team is on the ground and expects aerial surveillance when this poor weather clears,” he added.
This is happening after a straying elephant in Enkonerei village, 3 km from Masimba town, killed Sonko ole Maruna, 45, as he approached his homestead at 10 pm on Friday.
He was walking home from Masimba town with foodstuff that included meat and maize meal for his family when he suddenly bumped into a stray elephant that was among other three that were being chased away from the homestead by his sons.
According to the area chief, Daniel Kanchori, who received firsthand information after the attack, the deceased was chased for 150 metres before he was eventually trampled upon by one of the jumbos.
“As his sons started beating tins and drums to scare the elephants from the homestead, the Jumbos ran in the direction their father as he was approaching,” said Chief Kanchori.
Kanchori said the sound of tins irritates the elephants, and they must have sped off with anger only for one of them to vent anger on the man.
Ongwae, while briefing journalists on the telephone about the operation, confirmed the incident that took place on Friday, and termed it “unfortunate.”
Ongwae, whose unit tackles wildlife/human conflicts issues in the entire country is based in Kiboko, Makueni County, denied claims attributed to the local elders that KWS is not responsive to animals attacks.
“Let me, first of all, say what happened to the old man is unfortunate, and should not have happened. I received the report after 1o pm on Friday and immediately called Makindu police to take care of the dead body,” said Ongwae.
He said he assisted in the movement of the body to the mortuary in Makindu hospital mortuary.
“We always get these incidences and act immediately. The residents of those affected areas may be thinking that acting may mean we will wipe all the elephants in the area. This is not the case because they understand our rules of engagement,” said Ongwae in a telephone interview.
Ongwae explained the rule of the game to mean that if one is injured or killed by wild animals, the government must compensate them. This he said should not warrant the killing of the elephants but that KWS warders have the obligation to drive them away from residential areas.
The area chief said that in the last 3 years, three people have been killed by elephants and scores of others injured.
“We have lost property that includes boreholes, open water pans, and water drums in our homesteads to elephants in this area. Our anger is pegged on the fact that our people are killed and property destroyed but no one has ever been compensated,” said Chief Kanchori.
Ongwae blamed the rising and heavy presence of elephants in Masimba owing to the fact that there was oil spillover in the Koboko streams that has forced 3 elephant families to relocate in search of clean stuff.
He also said the KWS is also planning to erect a 90 km perimeter fence from Makindu to Kilinyet with a view to diverting away from the movement way of elephants on the migratory corridor that lies around Masimba. Elephants migrate from Kyulu National Park to Amboseli and Tsavo West National parks.
“We are doing a lot of engagement with the people of Masimba on these issues touching on their security, and we are also advising them not to stay late outside their homes because the area is dangerous,” Ongwae warned.
He said after receiving the Friday incident report, he immediately called Mashuuru deputy county commissioner, Stephen Nyakundi and briefed.
“I am urging the area chief to pick compensation forms and bring them to my attention so I can complete them immediately. I will also be visiting the bereaved family next week with the DCC,” he said.