Where residents are living in constant fear of being attacked by wild animals
For a long time, residents in Laikipia County have been faced with wildlife menace which has left them in fear and apprehension after losing their loved ones while also counting losses.
Incidents of people being mauled by a hyena, being ravaged by a lion or trampled by an elephant have become common with the helpless residents evidently now resigned to their fate.
Mzee Benson Ngure, 71, and his wife, Margaret Wambui 56, have painful memories of how their son’s life was cruelly cut short after he was mauled by a hyena.
The ordeal which these aged couple went through can only be likened an oral narrative or a scene in one of the world’s scariest horror movie.
The morning of Friday February 4, 2019 will forever be etched in the couple’s memory as the day that changed their lives forever.
Their day started at 5am, as it was the norm, but nothing was normal about that fateful day.
Their 11-year-old son, a Standard Two pupil at Mwireri Primary School, was in the leaving room getting ready for school when out of the blues he was attacked by two hyenas.
His cry alerted his father who rushed out carrying a stick as he thought it was only a stray dog only to find the beasts mauling his beloved son.
Despite his advanced age, the old man armed with only a stick fought the animals bravely as one of the hyena turned to his wife who was in the kitchen preparing breakfast together with their other son.
The mother, who was caught off-guard, passed out while with severe injuries on the head and loins as Mzee Ngure fought with the hyenas managing to yank off the tongue of one of the beasts and while at it getting his hand severed.
The families cries for help attracted neighbors who responded armed with machette, axe and other weapons but it was too late as the beasts had already devoured the boy leaving only 30% of his body.
They managed to kill one hyena as the other escaped in the nearby thicket, leaving Mzee Ngure and his wife nursing serious injuries on their hands, head and loins.
“I was a very hardworking person, you can even ask around, they know me well. I used to buy and sell charcoal using my bicycle. In a day I could make more than Sh1000. Now I cannot do anything as the beast devoured my hand as I struggled to save my son,” Mzee Ngure recalls pain written all over his face.
“I can no longer ride my bicycle or do other menial jobs available here in order to feed my wife and kids. My wife too is disabled as the animal left her with severe injuries on her head and thighs,” the tearful old man narrates.
The couple’s only hope now is the Sh5 million promised by the government as compensation for losing their son is such a horrendous manner, and which has remained elusive one year later even after providing all the required documents and filling the necessary forms.
“They promised us Sh5 million as compensation but until now we are still yet to see or hear anything. We need justice because it was their negligence which caused the beasts to attack me and my family in our home,” he says
Mzee Ngure is just an example of the many victims of the souring cases of human-wildlife conflict in Laikipia county and elsewhere in the region.
The devastated residents have been left wallowing in grief and misery after losing their loved ones, being rendered disabled and counting unfathomable loses in terms of properties and farm produce through constant attacks by wild animals from conservancies in the region.
In December 2019, a woman met her death after she was trampled by an elephant in Ol Arabei Forest along Laikipia-Baringo border.
Stella Chebii, aged 36, had reportedly gone to search for her livestock when she ended up being killed by the animal, according to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Nairobi has also not been spared of the scourge following a bizarre incident in which a man identified as Rono Kipkurui was mauled to death by a stray lion near Nairobi National park last year in December.
These incidents have put KWS on the spot with the service being blamed for laxity in ensuring safety of Kenyans by controlling wildlife, a huge irony especially in today’s tech-savvy world.
Various pledges by the government, including electric fence installation on various national parks and nature reserves in the country, have remained empty promises as Kenyans face the brutal reality.
It is even worse as the marauding beasts are now roaming free even in residential areas much to the horror of residents.
KWS officer in charge of Laikipia West, Mohammed Madela, had attributed the increase in wildlife-human conflicts to a fire which broke out at Laikipia Nature Conservancy.
Despite being promised compensation, most of the victims are still languishing in agony as they are yet to receive anything.
In a telephone interview, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism, Dr Fred Segor, confirmed several cases of people who have fallen victims to attack by wild animals, saying the process of compensating the victims is underway.
“There are over 7,000 cases which we are dealing with at the moment so as to verify their authenticity and proceed with compensating the victims,” he said.
Dr Segor further revealed that county committee tasked with the matter has already received the necessary training meant to ascertain the victims, draft the budget and present it to the national government for implementation.
“In accordance to Wildlife Act 2013, the compensation amount for loss of life Sh5 million, disability Sh3 million while victims who get other injuries are entitled to Sh 2 milion as compensation,” he explained.
However, the victims will have to wait for at least 20 months to allow the county taskforce to complete the process.