Coming from Kenya, a country where wild animals frequently clash with people, at first I could not understand how a fox – an animal slightly bigger than a cat – could cause panic to the citizens of such a developed nation.
But that was the story that greeted me in every national newspaper this week, my first week in London, where I have moved for two months as part of a placement with The Independent from the Standard Newspaper in Nairobi.
When I visited the scene of the incident I found a battery of journalists sniffing around for the fox. Mothers feared for the safety of their children. They were no longer leaving their doors open even in the hot summer. Some were thinking of reinforcing their backyard doors just to keep away the fox.
The incident set me thinking about what would have been the reaction if this happened in Kenya. It wouldn’t have been news. Writing similar reports for publication would be the joke of the year in the newsrooms because it is common for big game like elephant, leopards, lions and cheetahs to wander into people’s homesteads, leading to vicious human-wildlife clashes.
These are everyday occurrences in the remote areas. Reporting them would be weird.
In Kenya, children encounter foxes daily as they graze animals in the fields. They have developed a mutual bond: children feed them with wild fruits and they engage in a game of chasing each other.
People also come into contact with the foxes during rainy season as both humans and the animals fight for flying termites. Children are tasked with keeping the animals at bay as parents trap the insects.
And if in the process children are bitten there would be no rush to seek medical attention – it goes unreported because it would lead to thrashing by parents because of carelessness.
That police officers can respond to such an incident in Kenya as they did in east London is unthinkable. In the first place nobody can call a police station or any other government office to report that there is a fox.
I envy the land of Her Majesty - where a fox can be such a big problem.
Alex Kiprotich is a journalist on The Standard newspaper in Kenya and winner of the David Astor journalism award 2010.