This week, members of a community living in the Kitengela area outside Nairobi National Park killed six lions after they attacked a number of their goats and sheep. The incident has reignited discussions about the security of wildlife in Kenya overall.
By Michael Kaloki, Nairobi
“The country has lost nine lions, including the recent Kitengela incident as well as four elephants since January due to conflicts with people,” said Kenya Wildlife Service spokesperson Paul Mbugua.
But it’s not just animals at risk. Human statistics add to the already grim picture.
“From January to date, we have lost 18 human lives,” said Mbugua, going on to cite a recorded “65 human injuries”. To that he added “598 incidents of crop damage, 496 incidents of human threats by wildlife, 176 wild animal attacks on livestock and 18 reports of property destruction”.
Another subject of concern is the resurgence of poaching, particularly in protected areas. Some analysts have linked this to a growing demand for ivory in the international market.
KWS officials have continuously noted the agency’s ambitions to curb the illegal practice. According to Mbugua, the first five months of 2012 saw the loss of “a total of 133 elephants and 11 rhinos to poaching”.
“In the past one week alone, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers have recovered six rifles, one pistol, 109 rounds of ammunition, three pieces of elephant tusks and 52 kilograms of meat,” said Mbugua.
In a move to improve identification of seized ivory, KWS plans to set up a forensic laboratory at the organization’s Nairobi headquarters. In the past, the wildlife officials have made significant seizures of ivory at the country’s seaport and airports – including this week’s discovery of a container filled with illegal ivory at Nairobi’s main airport.
“We have stepped up efforts aimed at apprehending poachers and dismantling poaching syndicates and trophy trafficking,” said Mbugua.
Poaching and human-wildlife conflict continue to worry wildlife and tourism officials.
Each year, people from around the globe – notably, the Netherlands, the UK, China and Australia – travel to Kenya to catch a glimpse of the country’s famed nature. Yet the worsening wildlife security situation makes some wonder how long this East African country will remain such a popular destination.