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Wildlife Conflict in Kenya

Conflict between pastoralists and ranchers in Kenya intensifies

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Sep 02, 2009

Aviators and the tourism sector in Kenya were alarmed when a light aircraft was shot at by illegal herders on a private ranch in the extreme north of the Laikipia area, just after dropping off the owner of the property on her "doorstep," the airstrip leading literally to the front porch of the main buildings of the estate. Famous Kenyan resident cum conservationist Ms. Kuki Gallmann had reportedly returned to her property only minutes before and was to investigate reports on increased poaching on the mixed ranch and wildlife conservancy.

The air charter company, Tropic Air based in Nanyuki, confirmed the incident and while it pointed out that the pilot escaped unharmed, the aircraft has sustained some damage to the hull and propeller from bullets.

Police investigations commenced immediately when the pilot had radioed in the message and after then filing a report with Nanyuki police after his safe landing and a crack unit of the Kenyan police. Paramilitary forces are presently combing the area to find and arrest the perpetrators.

This is the first such incident in the heart of Kenya, although Somali Islamic militants reportedly fired several times on Kenyan aircraft patrolling the distant border areas, but no such potentially tragic shooting was ever reported from the Laikipia area, where wildlife and nature based tourism plays a major economic role besides ranching and agricultural activities.

No comments could be obtained directly at the time of filing this report from government sources in Nairobi in spite of sustained efforts by this reporter. However, the chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, Mr. Jake Grieves Cook, issued an immediate response exclusively to eTN. He said: "It is a relief that no one was hurt in this random incident which appears to have been related to illegal grazing and not connected in any way with tourism. We deplore any acts of lawlessness which could affect our tourist industry and we have asked the government security forces to take urgent action to establish proper law and order and to ensure enhanced security in the ranch concerned. The other parts of Laikipia where tourist facilities are located have reported that all is operating normally."

He also confirmed that a delegation of leading tourism stakeholders immediately called upon the deputy prime minister in Nairobi, after news of the incident reached them. At the meeting the group demanded immediate and comprehensive action against such acts of lawlessness from the Kenyan government to prevent any lasting damage to the country’s reputation abroad as a safe and desirable tourist destination.

It was also pointed out by reliable sources in Kenya that the transgressions of herders, i.e. invasions of private ranches but also into protected areas, have of late increased due to the prevailing draught conditions, which have compelled pastoralists to seek sources of water away from their usual grazing grounds to prevent their livestock from dying of thirst.

The area where the incident happened is reportedly in the extreme north of the Laikipia area with the main tourism activities on "conservancies" quite a distance away from where the shooting took place, hence prompting no danger to visiting tourists to the area.

However, the brewing conflict between pastoralists and ranchers will require swift and decisive action by government to find a solution acceptable to both protagonists to prevent further violence of this sort spreading to the detriment of the whole country.

 Conflict between pastoralists and ranchers in Kenya intensifies
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