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Of all wild animals snakes deadliest, KWS report says

By Gatonye Gathura | April 28th 2019

Snakes have killed 614 and injured 7,772 Kenyans between 2007 and 2016, making it the most deadly wild animal in the country.

Data published by the Kenya Wildlife Service shows the reptile was responsible for about half of all human deaths caused by wild animals and more than three-quarters of injuries.

Of the 18,794 claims lodged with the Kenya National Compensation Scheme during the period, snakes were responsible for 44.8 per cent of all human death claims and 77 per cent of those for human injuries.

In May last year, the World Health Organisation assembly recognised snakebite as a health issue of global concern.

According to WHO, snakes, which kill about 80,000 people globally and disable another 400,000 annually, rank second to mosquitoes in the number of human deaths caused by animals globally.

Treating snakebites in Kenya has been hampered by what has been blamed on weak regulatory systems that allow the entry of unsafe and ineffective antivenins in the market.

The report, published in March by Kenya Wildlife Service, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and University of Hohenheim, Germany, shows highest number of deaths occurred in Tana River, Wajir and Kitui, in that order.

After snakes, elephants caused the second highest number of conflicts resulting in 4,181 compensation claims.

These included 266 human deaths and over 75 per cent of crop and property damage, according to the report appearing in the International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation.

Compensation monies

Of 19 animal species likely to conflict with humans in Kenya, only five were responsible for 90 per cent of human deaths during the study period.

These included snakes, causing 614 human deaths or 43 per cent of the total, elephants 268, crocodiles 210, hippos 119 and buffaloes 106. During the period, the government spent Sh3 billion on compensations.

The report shows men are three times more likely to be killed by animals than women. “Further, twice as many males as females were likely to suffer injuries while more adults than children were affected.”

The only county out of the 47 that did not place any compensation claim during the decade was Nyamira. On the other hand, elephants caused most of the damage - about 80 per cent to crops and other properties.

Three large carnivores; the hyena, leopard, and lion were responsible for 85.6 per cent of all the livestock depredation cases, whereas the wild dog caused six per cent.

Counties with highest claims for crop raiding were Meru, Taita Taveta and Laikipia while claims for livestock predation were highest in Samburu, Taita Taveta and Narok in that order.

Crop raiding and livestock predation peaked during the early dry season month of July, shows the study.

Many compensation claims, the report shows were never paid out mainly because they lacked important documents, such as a national identity card of the claimant and missing or incomplete information.

Omission would include the value of the damaged property for which compensation is claimed, or missing signature of the police officer or medical doctor who handled the case.

Up to 2013, compensation for loss of life was Sh200,000, Sh50,000 for permanent disability and less than that for other human injuries. There was no compensation for loss of livestock, crop destruction or livestock predation.

However, this has since changed with a lost life being compensated at Sh5 million; permanent disability at Sh3 million and other injuries at less than Sh2 million.

Loss of property, livestock or crops is assessed and compensated at market value. During the study period, the report shows there were a few rare claims such as human attack by fish, wild pigs, giraffes and antelopes.

Actually, there were 21 claims of human attacks from stonefish and stingray and several others blamed on porcupines, squirrels, ostrich and the monitor lizard.  

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