Written by Henry Neondo
Kenya Wildlife Service Wednesday denied allegations fronted by wildlife activists that it is sitting on the Wildlife Bill. Speaking at the ongoing first Africa Science Journalists conference currently going on in Nakuru, Kenya, Paul Mbugua, Assistant director in charge of conservation education said KWS may have played a role in its development but does not seat on bills. This is somewhere in the government chain.
A Bill is developed through consultative process involving many stakeholders but it is the responsibility of the parent Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and the Attorney General who will present it before parliament.
Mbugua said the Bill once enacted into law will help Kenya effectively manage the rising human-wildlife conflicts.
The Bill has been put on hold since its development in 2008. While the activists blame the KWS for forestalling it, KWS on the other hand points fingers at the Parliament and the office of the AG for the delayed debating of the Bill.
Among issues it aims to address include compensation. Between 1971 to 2007, compensation for life lost stood at Ksh30, 000. This has however been raised to Ksh200,000 by the new Bill.
Injury had been pegged to Ksh50,000. It has also factored compensation for loss of crop and community participation.
Mbugua said the human-wildlife conflicts in Kenya are worsening and hotspots include Laikipia, Taita-Taveta, Rumuruti, Narok, Transmara, Rombo, Lamu, Imenti South and Njukini.
He said people use all sorts of equipment to kill wildlife like spears, traps, bullets, machetes etc.
Although there are more than 100 mammal species but elephants constitute the largest cause of these conflicts followed by hippos (15000) lions (2000), leopards, crocodiles and snakes and primates are major causes of human-wildlife conflicts.
He said that notwithstanding, KWS responds to more than 95% of reported cases.
Animals are attacked due to predation (1648 cases last year), infringement on crops, and attack on humans.
Trying to explain the reason for the rise in the conflicts, Mbugua said by 1920, Kenya’s population was less than 3 million but this has risen to 40million people leading to more cases of the conflicts as people move into areas that were migratory routes for wildlife.
He said the delay by the government to enact a land use policy led to people to infringe on migratory routes.
This is made worse by poor water distribution for both livestock and wildlife in the farms and parks which allows herders to often take their livestock to search for water in areas they are likely to meet wildlife.
Mbugua cited poaching as one other challenge facing wildlife conservation.
To help minimize conflicts, the KWS has began engaging communities, try to fence off areas with high incidents of human-wildlife conflicts and use GPRS system to help monitor movement of wildlife and later advise herders to stay away from areas where wildlife are.