image courtesy of laikipia.org
Wildlife conservancies and private land owners in Laikipia County in central Kenya have voiced concern over a spate of incursions into their properties by nomadic livestock keepers, some of them armed, and who have also been accused of killing wildlife.
“What has happened around us suggests that conservation in Laikipia North doesn’t have a future,” said one affected private land owner in the area who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. “In order to save their tourism business, companies have characterised the violence as ‘isolated’ but the invasions have hit a huge area of Laikipia North,” he added.
Affected residents have blamed the invasions on “inciters” who are encouraging pastoralist communities to drive their herds into privately-owned wildlife ranches and farms. Prevailing drought is the ostensible reason the herders, seeking pasture for the livestock, have invaded private properties.
But residents are not convinced that drought is the only reason. “Drought has been surmounted in the past with grazing agreements,” said one of the affected residents.
According to reports in the local media, an estimated 10,000 herders, some of them armed with rifles and have driven more than 130,000 cattle into wildlife conservancies and other private properties. Some of them have reportedly killed elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions, and even attacked people, with at least one fatality reported.
The herders appear to be deliberately targeting private game lodges, ranches and smallholdings owned by farmers, suggesting that the invasions have been orchestrated by unidentified people with ulterior motives, according to residents.