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Manyattas get lights and fences to deter big cats

RIFT VALLEY
By Robert Kiplagat | October 13th 2021
Mathew ole Ntaiya inside his predator-proof boma at the Olderkesi community wildlife conservancy near the Masai Mara Game Reserve. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

Pastoralists in Narok County have long counted their wealth in terms of the number of cows, goats and sheep that they own.

Those who live in villages around the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have been known to go to great lengths to protect their livestock from predators that stalk the grasslands in search of a meal.

Warriors, popularly known as morans, spend nights in the cold to keep away the big cats, armed with only daggers, arrows, spears and knobkerries. Death, however, is inevitable–be it of the brave warriors, hungry predators or prized livestock.

But communities living in three wildlife conservancies can finally rest easy following the installation of anti-predator measures.

This after the World Wide Fund for Nature Kenya came to their rescue by donating predator-proof bomas and predator-deterrent lights to keep the wildlife at bay.

Matthew Ntaiya, the beneficiary of a predator-proof fence, said he will no longer have to sleep outside armed only with his spear and arrows to protect his livestock.

“I have lost almost 50 head of cattle and sheep to hyenas, leopards and lions. We could not sleep since our livestock was not safe,” said Mr Ntaiya.

He said the Kenya Wildlife Service only compensates individuals or the family members of those injured and killed by wildlife. “Once the predators kill our livestock, KWS does not compensate us.”

Mathew ole Ntaiya in his predator-proof boba at Olderkesi community wildlife conservancy near the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve.The fence was provided by World Wide Fund for Nature-Kenya aimed at reducing human wildlife conflicts. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

The predator-proof fences are made of wire mesh that prevents the wild cats from entering the livestock enclosures.

Nataana Kaura, 64, said she will also have peaceful nights after eight of the lights were installed in her compound. “These lights have greatly assisted us. Nowadays, hyenas cannot enter my compound because they think there is someone around. My sheep, goats and cows are now safe,” said Ms Kaura.

Recently, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the government had paid Sh146 million as compensation for deaths and injuries caused by wildlife in the county.

According to WWF Southern Kenya Landscape officer Martin Mulama, the anti-predator initiative was part of an initiative to ensure that the communities living in the conservation areas embrace the surrounding wildlife while also engaging in livestock-keeping.

“We are a conservation organisation, and we have realised that without the involvement of the community, conservation will fail. Human and wildlife conflicts are a threat to conservation,” said Dr Mulama.

The conservancies that benefited from the programme are Olkinyei, Olderkesi and Lemek, according to the official. They got 50 predator-deterrent lights and 30 predator-proof bomas.

Mulama described the lights as “efficient because they are solar-powered and self-regulating.”

“The lights are small and can be mounted on trees around the homestead. They have sensors, and whenever there is movement, they light up, thus pushing the predators away,” he said.

The organization’s Chief Executive Officer, Mohammed Awer, who attended the launch of the programme, said that communities played an important role in wildlife and environmental conservation.

Mr Awer also said that the organisation has built a milk cooling plant and would construct water pans in the three conservation areas.

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