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How wananchi ensured killer jumbo never lived to wreak havoc again

By Peterson Githaiga | February 9th 2015

When an elephant strayed into a windswept hamlet in a remote village near Amboseli National Park in Kajiado County, rampaged around Saitoti ole Santamu's homestead and ultimately killed him, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers thought this was just another case of conflict which would soon be forgotten.

This could not have been further from the truth. Mashuru village residents were baying for the Jumbo's blood. So for two days, they demonstrated and blockaded the Emali-Loitokitok road. And entreaties from KWS personnel fell on deaf ears.

Outnumbered and out maneuvered, the rangers thought the intervention of area leaders may just do the trick but not even Governor David Nkedianye and Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko could convince the villagers to unblock the road.

But as the anger wore off, the villagers, who were mostly women, decided they would open the road but some conditions had to be met. The KWS rangers would have to kill the stray elephant or else Maasai morans would trace the animal and spear it to death.

But if rangers thought they could disappear for a few hours then claim to have shot the jumbo dead, they had another thing coming. The rangers would have to bring with them the ears and the tail as evidence that the animal had been killed.

Aerial search

Due to the mounting pressure from the residents, KWS yielded to the demands and the rangers were ordered to mount an aerial search for the animal.

To ensure there was no charge of trickery, the villagers chose representative who would tag along in the aerial search to witness the slaying of the killer jumbo.

After scouring the vast wildlife sanctuary for hours, the KWS team finally zeroed in on the elephant and brought it down under a hail of bullets.

They then proceeded to extract evidence from the dead animal as demanded by Mashuru residents.

First they cut of the elephant's gigantic ears and then its tail which they hurriedly loaded to the waiting chopper and they were off to Mashuru village.

After presenting the evidence, it was the villagers' chance to keep their end of the bargain and they did not disappoint.

The barricaded road was immediately opened to motorists and traffic flowed as usual. However, the body parts were later taken away by the KWS officials to their headquarters.

Area leaders accused KWS of failure to address their concerns over recent increased human-wildlife conflict that has led to loss of many lives.

Locals claim they had raised the alarm over stray animals in villages but KWS did not act. Two weeks ago, human wildlife conflict led to the closure of several schools near the Kyulu Hills Wildlife Conservation.

The Governor told KWS to address their concerns failure to which they would vent their anger on wild animals.

"The Kenya wildlife management are sleeping on the job and throwing wild animals control to the dogs. We will not allow our people to be victimised and killed by wild animals that we have mutually co-existed with for decades," said Nkedianye.

Ms Tobiko said efforts by community leaders to end human wildlife conflict have been frustrated by KWS.

KWS Assistant Director Julius Cheptei said they formed a Problem Management unit to tackle human - animal conflict cases.

He however promised that the organisation would dig water pans within Kajiado County to ease the conflict.

"I apologise on behalf of the KWS fraternity for the frustration it has caused locals, by not responding to your calls about dangerous animals in villages even as the drought bites," Cheptei said.

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