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Baboon attacks drive residents to the edge

Baboons in a sorghum farm at Akingli village in Kisumu West sub-county on July 16, 2020. [Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

It is 9am on a Monday morning, and Jeckonia Njaga emerges from shrubs neighbouring his home in Akingli village, Kisumu West Sub-county.

He has been keeping vigil since 5.30am to prevent baboons and monkeys from raiding his one-acre maize field.

This is the new normal for him and the hundreds of residents in the village following increased invasion by the wild animals. The animals are not only a security risk as they attack people and domestic animals, they also pose a hunger threat.

“This dog is healing from a baboon attack, which happened a week ago. Had we delayed to respond, it would be dead,” Njaga says.

Last planting season, Njaga lost over half of the harvest to the animals.

“Our way of life has changed. We have to be armed every time, and we spend about 15 hours in the farm every day or else we lose everything,” says the 50-year-old father of six.

When The Standard visited the area, a number of residents could be seen in groups, carrying machetes, clubs and other weapons.

They said the weapons were not for attacking the animals, but for scaring them away “as they are too smart to fall into the villagers’ traps”.

The villagers claim over 300 baboons and monkeys reside within the neighbouring bushes.

Started appearing

According to 40-year-old Nicanor Odongo, the baboons started appearing in the village in 2014.

“They were only a few then. We could see two or three traversing the villages and picking up food remains,” he said.

Two years later, the population of the animals had risen to over 100, and they could be seen moving in groups and becoming fierce.

Today, the animals have taken over the three villages in Akingli comprising over 1,400 residents.

Odongo claims that efforts by residents to seek help from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has not borne any fruits, as wardens who respond to contain the situation have always left without any solution.

The residents now want the village, which sits on 1,500 acres, handed over to KWS to turn it into a game reserve, and have the villagers moved to a safer place.

“The only solution is for us to be relocated and the area left for the animals as a game reserve,” said Odongo.

Joseph Nyongesa, the KWS regional senior warden, said they were aware of the problem and that they have been trying to intervene.

However, he said turning the village into a game reserve was not an option.

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