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KWS moves to forestall crop losses ahead of jumbo migration

By Stephen Rutto | August 27th 2019

Jane Kitum in her banana farm that was destroyed by elephants last year. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has warned Kerio Valley residents against attacking elephants ahead of their annual migration.

The agency has also advised locals not to farm along the migration corridors to reduce crop losses and conflict with the animals.

KWS Elgeyo Marakwet senior warden John Ngalia told The Standard that farmers had been instructed to immediately report any elephant sightings so that additional warders could be deployed.

“We are now sensitising farmers in parts of Arror and in areas along the migratory route so that we minimise human-wildlife conflict,” Mr Ngalia said.

The migrating jumbos move in families northwards from the Rimoi National Reserve along the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties to Turkana South between August to October.

The animals cover at least 200km before making a return journey in November and December.

The elephants also migrate to Keiyo South where they wreak havoc in farms and endanger the lives of residents in their search for natural salts.

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Mr Ngalia said the migration is still a subject of research, but observed that the jumbos migrate to neighbouring counties in search of mating partners.

The warder said the annual journey can be compared to the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara.

Last year, farmers who had planted crops along the elephants’ migratory route were left counting losses after the animals left their farms bare.

The elephants left a swath of destruction in farms in Kowow, Kasugut and Sangach in Marakwet East constituency.

Jane Kitum, a banana farmer who nearly lost her entire crop, called on the KWS to take measures to prevent losses this year.

“The elephants flattened my banana farm last year. I replanted although I am yet to receive compensation. I am hoping KWS will save me from another loss this year.  I lost more than 80 banana plants last year and I hope not to lose this time,” Ms Kitum said.

But even as farmers expressed fears of crop losses, the Elgeyo Marakwet County Government said it is planning to position itself to tap into the annual migration to increase the number of local and foreign tourists to the area.

Tourism Executive Shadrack Yatich said tourists can watch large herds of elephants as they journey to the north and back.

“It is one of the most unique migrations in the country and we are exploring ways to make Elgeyo Marakwet a destination of choice for elephant fans from all corners of the world,” Mr Yatich said.

He also urged investors in the hotel industry to position themselves to reap from the migration.

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