An animal that looks like a leopard that was sighted in Cheplasgei village in Uasin Gishu County at the weekend has sparked both fear and joy.
The cat was seen perched on a tree near a house and panicked residents called police officers.
To their disappointment, the Administration Police officers were unable to kill the animal even after shooting at it 10 times and the disappeared into a nearby maize plantation.
Hours later, six officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) from Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet, arrived armed with AK-47 rifles and a dart gun.
The rangers, accompanied by residents, tried to track down the animal. They failed to capture it even after the predator was spotted two times in the plantation.
Villagers said the failure to find and remove the leopard left them feeling frustrated and helpless.
“We now are living in fear because the animal is likely to be agitated and will attack when it comes into contact with human beings or even livestock,” said Nyongio Ruto.
But not all villagers are unhappy with the uninvited guest. Some women counted it as a blessing.
“Since the leopard was spotted, our men have been coming home as early as 5pm. The animal is godsend. We just pray it does not hurt or prey on our livestock,” said Ruth Kemboi.
Late in the night
Most husbands, she said, return home late in the night or even in the morning.
KWS rangers criticised the police officers who shot at the animal, saying this was not the right way to handle the cat.
“They should have waited for us so that we can sedate the animal and transfer it back to the wild, where it is supposed to be,” said one officer.
The rangers said it was likely that the animal is a serval cat, not a leopard, and has been spotted in the area before.