THE KENYA Wildlife Service has started moving 150 elephants from Narok North District to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. KWS senior assistant director Patrick Omondi said the month-long exercise is aimed at mitigating the rising cases of human-wildlife conflicts in the area.
"The translocation is set to greatly minimise the human-elephant conflict particularly regarding crops raids, property destruction, human injuries and deaths," Omondi said yesterday in Narok during the launch of the translocation.
He said the relocation is expected to reduce the incidences of elephant deaths and expenditure on animal control. "The exercise will involve about 30 technical people who include scientists, veterinary doctors, capture rangers, pilots, mechanics and drivers," said Omondi. "KWS will spend Sh15 million to translocate the animals from Siyapei, Ewaso Nyiro, Olkeri, Nkareta and Ntulele, where there are high cases of human-wildlife conflicts."
Omondi said 143 elephants will be moved to the Maasai Mara and 14 to a place to be decided later. This is the second phase of the translocation exercise. In the first phase carried out last year, 62 elephants were relocated from the region to the Maasai Mara. Omondi a number of translocated elephants will be fitted with GSM/GPS collar chips to monitor their movements. "We have put in place a long-term post-release monitoring plan, which will include deploying GSM collars to the translocated elephants to guide proactive action in the event the elephants attempt to return to the capture area," he said.
Omondi noted that the rapid change of lifestyle of local communities from pastoralists to crop farming have tremendously led to increased human-wildlife conflicts in the area. "Such conflicts in many area is mainly attributed to increased human population and loss of habitat due to uncontrolled human activities, especially crop farming ,charcoal burning and human settlements," he said.
Narok is one of the human-wildlife conflict hotspots in the country with elephants identified as the most problematic wildlife species. Early this year, KWS launched a national elephant conservation and management strategy. The strategy provides a clear road map for conservation and management of elephants in Kenya for the next 10 years. The strategy seeks to reduce cases of human-elephants conflict and increase the value of elephants to people and habitats.