14 August 2018

Kenya: KWS On the Spot, Again, Over Killing of Hippo At Lake Naivasha

Photo: The Herald

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is, once again, on the spot after its officers shot and killed a hippo that killed a tourist from Taiwan at Lake Naivasha last weekend.

This comes hardly a month after the agency, which is tasked with protection of wildlife and its habitats, was blamed for the death of 11 black rhinos at the Tsavo East National Park.


And days ago, KWS wardens killed a giant crocodile and cut it open in search of the remains of a missing girl's remains in Embu.

Uproar has greeted the killing of the hippo after it emerged that the KWS tracked and killed the animal hours after it attacked the tourist.

Hippos are a favourite attraction to both local and international tourists and even though they are not among endangered species, Kenyans want them protected at all costs.

Their main concern, as expressed in social media, is that KWS did not state who-- between the tourist, Mr Chang Ming Chuang, 66, and the animal-- intruded into the other's space.

The killing drew condemnation from tourism stakeholders and ordinary Kenyans who have accused KWS of "acting irresponsibly".

"That a hippo gets killed for attacking someone who clearly was in the wrong is disgusting," wrote Dr Paula Kahumbu, who is also an elephant expert and CEO WildlifeDirect.

"Perhaps we need to forget about educating visitors and start schools for hippos on tourism etiquette class 1,"

Mr Donald Kihanya, in a Facebook post, expressed a similar view: "Was the animal found with a toothpick. How did they even know it was the killer."

Another social media user, Joyce Mwihaki, wrote: "Killing the hippo, was this done as a lesson to the other hippos or what purpose did it serve?"

They all had one question: Why did KWS kill the animal?


Isn't KWS capable of using non-lethal means to immobilise the animal and get it to its habitat if it was ever out of it? they wondered.

From past experiences, KWS could have handled the animal's case better.

The agency has tracked down stray animals, including lions, before and tranquilised them for safe handling.

Furthermore, the said hippo attacked the tourists on the shores of Lake Naivasha, a natural habitat for the animal.

On Tuesday, conservationists and tourism stakeholders blamed the escalating human-wildlife conflict around Lake Naivasha on the encroachment of riparian land.

Nakuru leaders and fishing stakeholders also questioned KWS' motive of killing the animal.

Boat Owners Association (BOA) Chairman David Kilo said some the private institutions have erected structures at the edges of the vital natural resource.

"Our question as lake stakeholders is, which methodology did they use to know that it was the killer animal before they eliminated it? For me, it was a knee jerk reaction," said Mr Kilo.


The BOA chairman said the encroachment of riparian land has affected the wild animals' grazing areas, leading to the current conflict.

"We regret the Saturday incident, which was quite unfortunate, but institutions that have erected structures around the riparian land should bring them down," said Mr Kilo.

He asked the government to crack down on encroachers just like it is doing in Nairobi.

But KWS Hell's Gate park warden Nelson Cheruiyot defended the action by the agency's enforcement unit, describing the animals as "highly territorial."

"The enforcement team is well trained on such matters and those faulting the killing are missing the point," said the official.

Another senior KWS officer who sought anonymity disclosed to the Nation that they killed the animal because once it kills, it develops the tendency of killing more people.

"Once a hippo kills it becomes a 'killer'... it can continue killing more other people. That is why this one had to be eliminated," he said.

However, the Nation learnt that officers involved in the shooting of the hippo had been summoned to explain why they committed the act.

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