Kenya: Uproar As 10 Hippos Killed in One Week

Conservationists are up in arms over the killing of more than 10 hippos at Lake Ol Bollosat in Nyandarua County in just one week.

The killings are suspected to be part of a conspiracy to wipe out wild animals from the lake, which is a key tourist attraction in the region.

Nyandarua County Commissioner Benson Leparmorijo said five of the animals died in the waters as a result of injuries believed to have been inflicted by residents.

"The five died from wounds inflicted using sharp objects, probably spears," said Mr Leparmorijo.

The commissioner added that the other five were killed on land and the meat carried away.

Mr Leparmorijo said preliminary investigations revealed the animals killed on land appeared to have been chased, herded into one place and butchered.

"It appears that the animals were killed for their meat. We suspect the meat was transported and sold to unsuspecting people," said the county commissioner.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Senior Warden Gabriel Kiio said the number of hippos killed could be higher.

He warned people living around the fresh water lake, which is home to more than 800 hippos and more than 300 bird species, against attacking the animals.

Mr Kiio told the Nation that the killers stage a demonstration under whose guise they killed the animals, skinned them and carried away the meat.

"I have talked to the residents, particularly those living around Makereka, because that is where a high number of animals have been killed. I've warned them against killing the animals and we agreed no other hippo should die in a similar situation. Nevertheless, those who will be found to have killed the animals will be dealt with accordingly," said Mr Kiio.

Residents, however, accused KWS of letting the animals stray into their farms.

"Now they are talking tough because the animals have been killed. People have been attacked by the marauding animals. Some have been killed, others maimed and crops destroyed, yet our pleas for KWS to intervene have always fallen on deaf ears," said a resident.

The residents further claimed there is a new breed of smaller hippos in the area that are quite aggressive and walk far to invade farms.

Environmentalist Jackson Kinyanjui, the founder of Climate Change Kenya, called for thorough investigations and arrest of those behind the killings.

"This is very unfortunate. It compounds the loss of revenue in the tourism industry. Government agencies should move swiftly and arrest those who killed the animals," said Mr Kinyanjui.

He, however, appealed to KWS to control the movement of hippos from the lake to avert more cases of hippo attacks and retaliatory killing of the animals.

"KWS should sensitise residents of Ol Bollosat on the importance of protecting our wild animals and sharing with them the revenue generated from tourists visiting the lake," stated the conservationist.

"In the current budget, the government has allocated money for compensation of victims of human-wildlife conflict and fencing of this wildlife and bird-heritage site. The Ministry of Wildlife needs to ensure people's lives too are protected," he added.

Environmentalist James Wakibia echoed Mr Kinyanjui's advice.

"The government must curb human-wildlife conflict cases and ensure those behind the killings are arrested and prosecuted," said Mr Wakibia.

Government officials have in the past blamed the high incidence of human-wildlife conflict on encroachment and overgrazing on the riparian edge of the lake.

"The hippos are forced to stray into farms because there is no grass left for them to graze on in the riparian areas," said the warden.

Mr Kiio denied claims there was a new breed of hippos.

"We have never introduced any new breeds of hippos in the area. The hippos are unable to attain full-growth size due to lack of food because livestock overgrazed on their feeding areas," he explained.

Two months ago, the Nyandarua County government started digging a trench on the shores of Lake Ol Bollosat and on the banks of River Ewaso Nyiro to help reduce rising cases of human-wildlife conflict.

The 12km trench was meant to keep hippos off people's farms.

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Lake Ol Bollosat lies at the foot of the Aberdare Ranges in Nyandarua County.

It is one of the few fresh-water lakes in Central Kenya.

The lake is home to thousands of hippos and more than 300 bird species.

Being the only lake in the region, it is a tourist attraction and a source of revenue for the county government.

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