By Edward Indakwa
Those in doubt should remember that the Maasai annihilated Amboseli’s entire black rhino population. And rhinos, for your information, are not sitting ducks.
I know game wardens, many of them my friends, are seething with rage. But this killing is an opportunity for everyone to sit down with a stiff whisky and mull over a few things.
First, we should be glad those herdsmen did not have guns. Unlike other pastoralists, the Maasai have largely steered clear of firearms and their weapons of choice remain what they were when they frightened white explorers in the 18th Century.
But the Kitengela Maasai are only pastoralist in name. They live pretty close to Nairobi and have hardly suffered the marginalisation that modern Kenya visited on their peers in the hinterland. They are also relatively well educated and their lifestyles are sedentary and pretty modern.
The herdsmen who were parading dead lions, for instance, were clad in jeans and jackets – not shukas! I have met ‘herdsmen’ in Kitengela who turned to be university graduates in disguise. I wouldn’t take them lightly.
Second, we need to ask ourselves why Nairobi Park is partially fenced along Langata Road, Mombasa Road, and the section abutting Kitengela town. Game wardens – who are armed – reside in ring-fenced housing. Yet Nairobi Park is open on the section bordering the Kitengela Maasai.
How can we – the Nairobi elite – protect ourselves from lions yet expect the Maasai to somehow ‘co-exist’ with them?
Third, we need to re-examine why fencing Nairobi Park is considered problematic. Ecologists warn the park is too small. Fencing, they argue, would cut off migration to lands yonder that are owned by the local community.
Consequently, the ‘locked in herbivores’ would graze down every bit of vegetation and turn the Park into a glorified zoo in a few years. It is a horrible picture for any African wildlife manager. But do we have a choice?
With a few exceptions, our wildlife conservation and management model hasn’t changed much since the 1940s when Nairobi Park was established. I know we all would love to see wildlife traipsing through the savannah as they have done for generations. Sadly, we could afford it in the 1940s, but we can’t anymore. Not when our population has risen from six to 40 million people.