The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Herders Cost KWS 15 Million

The Kenya Wildlife Service spends more than Sh15 million every month to flush out illegal grazers and their livestock from Tsavo national parks. Tsavo conservation area assistant director Wilson Korir said KWS incurs the huge expenses to avert the rampant illegal grazing in the parks, which is threatening tourism. "We conduct air and ground surveillance on a daily basis to remove the herds of cattle. This has become too costly in that we have to use a chopper which consumes several litres of expensive oil every hour," said Korir adding that they spend over Sh500,000 daily which translates to Sh 15 million every month .

Korir revealed that there are more than 100,000 heads of cattle which graze illegally in the Chyullu hills and the Tsavo conservation area. He said that the illegal grazers were responsible for the increasing cases of human wildlife conflict and elephant poaching in the park and its adjacent private ranches. "Wherever there are livestock, there are fire arms and we suspect the herders are responsible for the poaching that has been witnessed in the private ranches adjacent Tsavo park," he said.

Ten elephants have been killed within the Tsavo conservation area since the beginning of this year with the lates one happening at Taita ranch where three jumbos were poached last week. The assistant director noted that the illegal grazing is posing a huge challenge to wildlife conservation and tourism in the country. "This is affecting the countries economy since visitors have been lamenting that they see more livestock than wildlife.The money spent on removing the livestock could instead be used to support our corporate social responsibility projects," he said.

Korir said the cattle owners mostly of Somali origin had initially signed leases with some of the local ranchers to graze manageable herds of cattle but as time went by they violated the agreements and overstocked,resulting to depletion of pastures and water resources. "The huge herds that invade the parks are usually from neighbouring ranches. They are a threat to environment and also fan the human wildlife conflict in the region as jumbos are forced to stray out of the parks in search of pastures and water," he pointed out.

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