End human-wildlife conflict once and for all

NAIROBI, KENYA: Avoidable socio-economic factors fuel human-wildlife conflict. Human populations continue to expand and outgrow available land, compelling them to encroach on forests and animal sanctuaries. This brings the two into close proximity.

Rapid urbanisation and need for land for expansion has seen the government move large populations to create room for buildings and roads.

Nairobi city's expansion, for instance, threatens the existence of the Nairobi National Park. Animals are being pushed into constricted areas that don't have pasture or enough fountains and springs from which to quench their thirst.

Human habitation is distorting and blocking migratory routes that animals have used for centuries, thus setting the stage for conflict. In times of drought, these animals come out to look for water and food and the havoc they wreak on crops occasions heavy losses to farmers.

In retaliation, farmers vent their anger on the animals by killing them. Unfortunately, as illustrated by a case two months ago in Mbeere, Embu County, hungry citizens feed on the carcasses of the animals they kill with serious health consequences.

When animals stray too close to human habitation in search of water and food, the poachers' bullets fell them either for their tusks or meat.

The Kenya Wildlife Service must protect animals and ensure they stay within their designated areas. It is imperative that a barrier exists between the two to save lives on both sides.

The erection of electric fences around animal sanctuaries will go a long way in restricting conflict arising from infringing on each other's space.

In terms of cost and maintenance, this might prove more costly and untenable, viewed against the expansiveness of the wild and cost of power. The alternative, therefore, would be to build walls to act as buffers.

Unless a respectable distance is kept between animals and humans, the tourism sector will continue to suffer as species become extinct.

Where man is fighting animal for space, the latter will lose out. In cases where people have lost lives, compensation has been too little and often comes too late.