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January 20, 2019

Governor Samboja leads residents in demanding compensation as wildlife menace escalates

Taita Taveta residents line up to record statements with the police over wildlife invasions at the Voi Stadium on Friday, January 11, 2019. /SOLOMON MUINGI
Taita Taveta residents line up to record statements with the police over wildlife invasions at the Voi Stadium on Friday, January 11, 2019. /SOLOMON MUINGI

Taita Taveta governor Granton Samboja on Friday led hundreds of residents from Sagala area to record statements at Voi Police Station over increased elephant invasion in their farms.

Residents from Gimba, Marapu and Talio areas later joined their Sagala counterparts and accused the Kenya Wildlife Service of laxity in restraining the jumbos.

The residents said they had incurred losses running into millions of shillings through the destruction of their crops and death of livestock.

Area MPs Jones Mlolwa (Voi), Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate) and Danson Mwashako (Wundanyi) also joined the residents in demanding for compensation.

More than 500 elephants have invaded Sagala since last month, attacking locals and destroying crops.

Samboja urged KWS to immediately drive the herds back to their habitat in Tsavo National Park.

“We have had enough of this menace. Let the KWS director general command his team to drive these animals away from our farms,” he said. 

Samboja said the area leaders will seek an audience with President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the issue of human-wildlife conflict.

He warned if the government failed to take quick action, residents will have to seek alternatives to protect their farms.

“The Constitution is clear on self defence when one is attacked by wild animals. We are giving them an ultimatum and they should take it seriously,” Samboja said.

Earlier, police who tried blocking the residents from accessing the Moi Stadium in Voi clashed with the leaders.

They were later allowed to assemble at the stadium following the intervention by Voi OCPD Joseph Chesire.

They later recorded statements with the police at the venue.

Sagala MCA Godwin Kilele said the elephants have affected education in the area as pupils avoid going to school for fear of being trampled on by the jumbos.

He said pupils from nine of the affected schools will soon hold demonstrations to protest the elephant invasions.

“The pupils will block Mombasa-Nairobi highway if KWS fails to act. We cannot continue risking the lives of our children,” Kilele said.

Learning was disrupted at Kileva primary school on Tuesday after a herd of elephants invaded the school.

Dorothy Chao, a parent, said they have been forced to escort their children to school every day to protect them from elephant attacks.

Two weeks ago, KWS Community Warden Zainab Salim said more rangers had been deployed in the area to manage the situation.

She promised to have the jumbos driven out within a week.

Salim said at least 1,500 compensation claims have been processed since 2014.

She said what remained is the release of funds from Treasury.

KWS has compensated only 10 deaths out of the 23 reported between 2014 and 2016 in Taita Taveta county.

The deaths resulted from attacks by wild animals.

Cases of people who died from snake bites are among those yet to be compensated.

She said KWS has spent Sh35.6 million to compensate victims or their next of kin across the county.

According to the County Wildlife Compensation and Conservation Committee, there are more than 700 pending cases in Taita Taveta alone.

They include more than 20 deaths, 235 injuries and 452 cases of crop destruction caused by elephants, lions, buffaloes, snake bites and crocodiles.

The Wildlife Compensation and Management Act provides Sh5 million compensation for deaths resulting from wildlife attacks.

It also provides for compensation for people injured, crops destroyed and livestock killed by wild animals.

Whoever, compensation for injured persons must follow a doctor's recommendation while compensation on crop destruction must be supported by a recommendation from an agricultural officer.

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