With the burgeoning human population in Kenya, and communities settling right up to the boundaries of National Parks, the Kenyan Wildlife Service is now faced with more and more human wildlife conflict cases. Without proper land management this is one problem that is likely to only grow in the future. A recent incident involving the Ithumba desnaring team graphically illustrates the dilemma.
I, Patrick Mutuku team leader of the Ithumba desnaring team, received a report on the 21st of January regarding the slaying of a leopard by the Muathe community on the boundary of the Northern Area of Tsavo East National Park just as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Desnaring Team Leaders were making their way back to their posts following a 2 day training period at Voi. I immediately reported the incident to the KWS Warden at Mutomo who happened to be at Voi at the time and together we headed straight to the sight. The leopard’s territory was the rocky mountain behind the village, and in recent months it had become bolder, coming closer to their livestock bomas at night, and even killing one of their goats. The community took action and laid a number of snares and animal was eventually trapped in a snare laid by a woman from the village. On discovering the terrified animal, trapped by its front foot, the community set about battering it to death with wooden rungus, machetes and stones along with shooting it multiple times with poisonous arrows, so that it eventually died a slow and horrendous death.
The leopards’ skin was removed and the carcass burned to prevent the villagers from feasting on the meat as they had intended, and the woman responsible for trapping the leopard was arrested by KWS and booked at the Mutomo Police Station.
A magnificent animal killed for doing what it does naturally, and an impoverished community that can ill afford to loose what little it has. With the rapidly growing population and the human pressure now on protected areas it is clear that stringent land use policies have to be put in place for the protection of wildlife and communities.
PATRICK MUTUKU - TEAM LEADER ITHUMBA TEAM -
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