Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is facing a big dilemma on whether to relocate hundreds of wildlife from Ndere Island National Park, as rising waters in Lake Victoria threaten the existence of the protected tourist site.
Already, part of the island that is home to several breeds of wildlife, is submerged.
The island is one of the tourist sites in Kisumu and is home to a number of wild animals, including the rare Sitatunga antelopes, water bucks, baboons, monkeys, impalas, zebras, warthogs, hippos and crocodiles.
With the rising water levels, KWS may be forced to seek alternative homes for some of the wild animals. The island has been at the centre of human-wildlife conflict debate.
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With a huge chunk of their grazing fields already lost in the lake, some of the animals have migrated to the shores in search of food.
“It is a big concern because we do not know how high the water levels will rise. This is a rare phenomenon that has affected the park adversely,” said a senior warden who insisted on anonymity.
The biggest dilemma remains where to take the animals. The other possible place is Kisumu Impala Park, which is facing a similar fate after the rising waters submerged part of it.
A spot check by The Standard established that the lake’s water had extended into parts of the two parks.
A KWS officer said they were forced to increase surveillance at the two parks to ensure the animals remained safe.
“We are facing a major challenge because the water keeps rising and from the look of things, anything is possible,” said the warden.
Should the lake reclaim the island, it will rob the region of one of the iconic tourist sites, where hundreds of visitors had been streaming to enjoy the beautiful sight of the lake and the wild animals.
Experts at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) have linked the swelling of the waters to climate change. “Several rivers are also draining in the lake, which could also be the cause of the rising waters,” said Christopher Aura, a scientist with KMFRI.
The Kenya Ports Authority is counting losses after some of its jetties were submerged.
As KWS ponders the next move, the community living next to the island has presented a petition seeking compensation over frequent attacks by the wild animals.
The petition signed by three environmental activists Michael Nyaguti, Haggai Kadiri and Joshua Nyamori, also seeks to compel KWS to put up a ring fence around the park to prevent the animals from escaping.
Senior KWS officials are on record confirming that four people have been killed by hippos and crocodiles in the past two weeks.
Cases gone up
Records from KWS, seen by The Standard, indicated that in the past three months, the number of cases had rapidly gone up as the animals move towards human settlements in search of pasture.
Ali Juma, a resident of Usoma, said hippos ruined his 20-acre rice farm while a baboon injured his son last week. He claimed no action had been taken even after he filed complaints at KWS.
“No one has come to even assess the damage. I have been left with nothing, yet no one seems to care,” lamented Juma.
KWS may be forced to part with millions of shillings in compensation as the rising levels of water in Lake Victoria have forced wild animals to migrate into homes near the shores, escalating the human-wildlife conflicts.
They have been receiving an average of 100 complaints per month from people either bitten by snakes slithering away from the advancing waters or attacked by hippos and crocodiles whose habitat had been destroyed.
The community around Dunga in the outskirts of Kisumu town have also suffered flooding and attacks by wild animals.
Records from KWS, seen by The Standard, indicate that in the past three months the number of cases of human wildlife conflict has increased to 300.