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Residents request KWS to intervene as hippos maim and kill fishermen

RIFT VALLEY
By Antony Gitonga | September 9th 2021
A group of hippos feed on the shores of Lake Naivasha where water levels have risen sharply reducing pastures for wildlife. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

John Kamau, 30, earns a living from fishing, but every day when he gathers his fishing gear to go to work, he knows he's dancing with death.

Kamau was recently attacked by a hippo which left him with severe injuries.

“I was working on the shores of the lake when the hippo attacked, crushing my legs. I was saved by my fellow fishermen who had a boat,” he said of the January 2019 incident. 

"It was the second time I was attacked. The first attack was in 2018," he says.

Many other fishermen from Kasarani village where he lives have been killed by hippos.

Early in the week, the latest victim, James Maina Gicheru was attacked near Kamuta farm by a lone hippo that crushed him to death as he fled from the coast guards. He is yet to be buried.

Kimani said that efforts to get compensation from KWS had been fruitless adding that he had undergone untold suffering as he sought treatment.

“The Government has refused to assist victims of the hippo attacks,” he said.

In the last two years, 20 people have been killed by the hippos and tens of others maimed. Last year cases went up as water levels at Lake Naivasha rose due to floods.

Samson Okoilel lost one of his knee-caps to the deadly attack by a hippo in Lake Naivasha [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Another victim Samson Okoilel said he is happy to be alive despite the injuries he sustained from a similar attack. 

He said that despite getting all the required documentation, KWS had declined to compensate him forcing him to rely on friends and relatives for support.

“I was in the hospital for four months and later referred for specialised treatment but I cannot afford this and I have been reduced to a beggar yet I was fit and supporting my family,” he said.

 John Mwangi, a trader at Karagita landing beach attributed the rising cases to the closure of wildlife corridors and riparian land pushing the animals into human settlement.

“We are worried by the rising cases of hippo attacks around the lake and this can only be resolved by opening up the riparian land,” he said.

There has been an increase in the number of fishermen fishing in the lake due to job losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many of the youth involved in this trade have been pushed into the lake by unemployment and some are killed by the hippos as they try to flee from the coast guards,” he said.

But speaking on the phone, KWS assistant director in charge of the South Rift region, Dickson Ritan noted that the attacks had dropped this year compared to last year.

Ritan noted that when the lake levels rose in 2020, the grazing land for the animals was reduced, pushing them into nearby estates and hence the attacks.

“We have conducted sensitisation meetings among the fishermen. Those who are most attacked are the illegal fishermen commonly known as foot-fishermen,” he said. 

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