Every time I visit a National park, am handed a set of dos and don’ts at the gate. One rule always stands out…Animals have a right of way. Olpejeta conservancy rule number 8 reminds the guests they are food to the animals while Nairobi national park warns that children and warthogs have a right of way (Still don’t get it). We have no choice but to respect the wildlife because this is their territory, the wild! But what happens when the roles are reversed? What happens when the wildlife come to the human space?
Wildlife conservation continues to pick momentum especially now that there are certain species that are at the brink of extinction. Many factors have led to this, one of them human wildlife conflict. Allow me to talk about human-elephant conflict because I have had first hand experience. I grew up on the slopes of Mt Kenya and I would hear stories about how elephants would destroyed peoples crops and fences as they breached the electric fence in Mt Kenya forest. These were just stories to me until July 2014 when the gentle giants came visiting. I arrived home at 10 pm and by 10.30 I was dead asleep. Around midnight, I heard my mom calling the neighbor alerting her that there were elephants in her compound. I was too tired to get up but for the next three hours I could hear people singing and hitting metallic containers to scare the elephants away.
According to my mom, the sounds of breaking wood and barbed wire woke her up. She switched on the security light and there it was… an elephant standing right outside her bedroom window. She says for a moment her heart stopped and in her panic she decided to call the neighbor instead of me.
At day break, we set out to asses the damage. My neighbors banana plants had all been destroyed and my kale and green squash had all been uprooted. Of course I felt bad about it because my squash were really good but I was excited at the same time. After all how many people have the honor of being visited by elephants?? (Image).
On a serious note though, this was a harmless visit and no human or elephant got hurt. But in other cases wild animals have died at the hands of humans and humans have died at the hands of wildlife. People have also lost their livelihood (crops and livestock) therefore not everyone in my village was as excited as I was. I applaud the conservationist because they have realized that they need to involve the community in their conservation efforts. They also need to educate us so that the next time the elephants come, we will have the appropriate KWS phone number to call and the proper tactics to ward off the elephants. I strongly believe there are better ways than banging metal containers in the middle of the night like insane witch doctors.
Here are a few photos of the trail they left behind… enjoy
When they were done they walked into the sunrise back to the comfort of the forest…
Our wildlife is our heritage and we need to find a way to coexist…
Until next time love &love
Christine the conservationist at heart.
Photo Credits: Mukuhi Wanjohi