Charity Appeal: Kenya's daily battle between humans and wildlife

It's little wonder that villagers want to kill elephants when faced with deadly attacks, but new deterrents help them to co-exist

Related Topics

Anne Nyokabi does not remember much about the day her mother was killed. They were both out walking one morning near their home when an elephant charged. He picked up her mother with his tusks and threw her to the ground. As he stepped on her repeatedly, Ms Nyokabi passed out.

It took neighbours three hours to convince her to let the police take away her mother's body. Two years later, she struggles to talk about that day. In one moment, she lost her mother, her confidante and the loving grandmother to her five children.

Elephants do not often kill people, but in Laikipia, Kenya, a number of people have a similar story to share. It is what happens when humans and nature's giants live side by side. More than 70 per cent of Kenya's wildlife live outside of national parks and can encroach on villages any day. About 35 people are killed by elephants each year in Kenya, according to the Born Free Foundation. Others live with the threat of losing their livelihood in one night, as hungry elephants can trample their crops and destroy a water supply.

"The elephant is like a wound in my mind," Ms Nyokabi said. "I can't even come out of my house when I hear an elephant is near by. Every time I see one, I remember that day. I want them to be far away from here. If they are killed, that's even better. Then they won't be able to attack me."

This is why conservationists and politicians argue that if we are to halt the poaching crisis, communities in Kenya must start protecting the elephant. But until we mitigate the havoc the animals can cause, this will not happen. The situation is urgent. More than 100 African elephants are killed every day; in 2011 alone, almost 12 per cent of the population was destroyed. Kenya's elephant population has plummeted from about 167,000 to 35,000 within 40 years. Communities need to safeguard their elephants but here in Laikipia, where at least 35 have been illegally killed this year, there is one of the country's highest rates of human-wildlife conflict.

David Kimita, a 45-year-old farmer and father of four, blames elephants for the breakdown of his marriage. Every time he plants crops, elephants raid his farm, leaving him with nothing for his family. "My wife depended on me for food, so when there was none, she decided to go – four years ago," he said, adding that he now sees his children only three times a year. "I can't leave as no one would buy this farm. I don't want the elephants dead, but I want them to be removed from here or restricted from coming in."

Susan Wangari Thiongo, 39, who lives near by, has come to dread the nightly elephant raids that destroy her farm and says it is hard to provide for her five children. "It's a cycle and happens over and over again," she said. "We can't go anywhere else but we lose crops every year. The government needs to do something to keep the elephants from our farm."

These clashes are only going to increase as Kenya grows. Its 40 million population is predicted to reach nearly 100 million by 2050, placing even more pressure on the land. But now it seems that the government is listening. Under the new wildlife conservation and management bill, more emphasis will be placed on providing benefits and incentives for landowners and communities that live with and bear the cost of wildlife. Conservation will be recognised as a form of land use and families will be compensated for the loss of a loved one (up to five million Kenyan shillings, or £35,600) or for an injury, as well as for the loss of crops or livestock by animal raids.

Francis Chachu Ganya, a Kenyan MP, said the new law represents a major shift. "In the past, people said we valued wildlife, but we didn't care about the human being. Now we are showing that we value the wildlife but also the people. There is conflict between people living around the parks and the wildlife and it's time to deal with that problem."

But, for some, it is too late. Adan Ali, 40, a father of two from Marmanet, Rift Valley province, lost his 86-year-old father two years ago when an elephant passed by the family compound, picking up his father and throwing him to the ground. He stepped on the left-hand side of his father's chest repeatedly. "If I remember it, I get so angry," Mr Ali said. "My sister was given money by the KWS [Kenya Wildlife Service], but I never wanted any of it. The best thing is for there to be electric fences – we had a solar-powered one but it was broken. We even went as far as digging traps, but elephants somehow managed to cross them."

But Space for Giants, the conservation charity determined to protect Africa's elephants, is working to prevent such incidents. It is monitoring where and when human-elephant conflict occurs using a dedicated community scout network in Laikipia and promotes the use of simple elephant deterrents such as chilli fences and loud noise-makers.

It is also deploying GPS collars on known crop raiders and working with partners and communities to manage electric fences. As a result, crop razing by elephants has been reduced by more than 50 per cent, according to the charity.

Mr Ganya said: "For the first time in wildlife conservation, we are appreciating that people are integral to wildlife systems. It needs to be gainful and meaningful to all."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before