Climate change fueling human wildlife conflict

Tourists take photos of a lion at the Nairobi National Park. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The unprecedented impacts of climate change such as devastating droughts, deadly floods and environmental degradation are fueling further human-wildlife conflict.

In Kenya, land is one of the most emotive and contested capital and with the increase of human population and loss of forests ecosystems due to environmental degradation, tension between human and wildlife continues to escalate.

The conflict occurs when people encroach wildlife protected areas such as national parks and game reserves, while wildlife invade human settlements as they compete for limited natural resources.

Globally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) during World Parks Congress held in South Africa in 2004, introduced human-wildlife conflict to the world stage.

Recently, while launching a compensation drive at Kampi ya Samaki in Baringo County, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the government has released over Sh500 million to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict.

In Baringo, many people including school children have lost their lives and others are nursing permanent disability because of snake bites and crocodile attacks especially in Lake Baringo. According to local communities, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) response to wildlife attacks, compensation process and mitigation of the conflict have not gained the desired results.

In June 2019, a task force on human-wildlife conflict compensation scheme was formed headed by Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinet to review existing gaps and challenges on compensation schemes and make recommendations on best practices that government can adopt.

The task force conducted field visits and recommended broad measures for the government to make strategic policy decisions. Such recommendations include; a human-wildlife conflict insurance scheme, amend the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, a human-wildlife co-existence fund, adoption of technology and mobile money transfer on payment of victims and scrapping county wildlife conservation committees.

Currently, the government owes human-wildlife conflict victims an estimated Sh14 billion in unsettled claims. Nationally, 4,090 people have been compensated countrywide with Baringo county allocated Sh29 million for compensation this year. Lamu, Kitui, Kilifi and Baringo counties lead with snake bite cases.