• Believed to have sneaked from nearby Rimoi and Lake Kamnarok Game reserves
• Threaten lives, destroy fences and crops
Residents of Kerio Valley in Baringo fear for their lives after some 50 elephants raided their villages.
They say the animals, with their calves in tow, sneaked out of the neighbouring Rimoi and Kamnarok game reserves along the Baringo-Elgeyo-Markawet border and have been roaming in the area since Friday.
“A number of them broke onto my farm on Saturday night around 11pm and destroyed all my mango trees,” Daniel Kurui said on Sunday.
He is among more than 100 residents bearing the brunt of wanton destruction. Banana and pawpaw farms have also been left in ruins.
Baringo KWS warden Peter Lekeren dismissed the claims, instead accusing residents of invading the elephants' habitats. He said his officers had already repulsed the stray elephants.
“It is true they are causing disturbance, but what should they have done if people encroached on their ecosystem, displacing them?”
Affected farmers in Barwessa, Baringo North, include Joshua Chebet, Francis Cherop, Samson Kandie, Samuel Chepsoi and Julius Kipunja. Worst-hit villages are Keturwo, Katibel, Muchukwo, Kapluk, Chemura and Turuturu villages.
“They have camped here since Friday and have caused massive destruction on our farms. We also don’t sleep at night because we fear for our lives,” Kurui said.
The victims plan to march to the Kenya Wildlife Service offices if nothing is done to drive the jumbos back to the game reserves.
The residents are no strangers to attacks and destruction by elephants. They have previously complained and urged KWS to consign the animals to their rightful place to avoid human-wildlife conflict. In August last year, a primary school head teacher was killed by an elephant.
Kamnarok National Reserve community liaison officer James Kibet linked the mass migration of the elephants to drought, which he blamed for the drying up of trees since January.
“They are now scouting in the villages to raid farms and take water from the nearby diminishing Lake Kamnarok,” Kibet said.
He said the population of the animals has put pressure on the meagre feed in the game reserves, prompting them to come out.
“People have undergone the stress of stray elephants since December last year, yet KWS has never done anything to drive them back,” Kibet said.
He urged the authorities to intervene swiftly, warning of the danger of losing the animals should angry residents resort to killing them.
“Lake Kamnarok is also drying up and the muddy shores might cause the animals, especially the young calves and the pregnant ones, to get stuck.”
Kibet said the locals are not free to cultivate their farms as the dangerous jumbos "usually strike at night and disappear to the nearby bushes during the day”.
However, Baringo KWS warden Lekeren said people who refused to vacate the demarcated Lake Kamnarok conservancy are the ones complaining.
“People refused to leave the place, so they should equally learn to coexist in peace with the elephants.”
Edited by F'Orieny