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I fought a leopard and won, Laikipia resident recounts encounter

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By Mercy Adhiambo | March 5th 2017
Peter Legei explains how he fought off a leopard when he was attacked and injured in Makurian Location, Laikipia North Constituency. PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/STANDARD

When Peter Legei, 30, looks at the expanse of vegetation behind his house, he is reminded of death.

Three weeks ago, Legei was almost killed by an animal, just as his father was, four years ago, when he was trampled by an elephant.

He was herding goats when his dog started barking incessantly. He turned to see what had startled the dog, only to come face to face with a crouching leopard, ready to pounce. “I knew I couldn’t outrun it, so I stood and waited,” he says.

The leopard came charging and pounced on Legei. He raised his hand to shield his face, and the leopard missed by a few inches. Its claws landed on his hand and blood gushed from the punctured flesh.

He tried hitting it with the wooden stick he carries while herding, but the feline overpowered him. Legei says the leopard was so heavy that when it placed its paws on his shoulder, he fell. “The moment I hit the ground, I knew it was over,” he says.

The leopard now had its face on his, licking him and trying to bite. When he attempted to rise, the leopard would push him back.

His dog continued barking, and the noise attracted his sister, Joyce Legei, who came running and found her brother tackling a leopard.

She screamed and started calling the neighbours. Despite the commotion, the leopard continued ripping Legei’s clothes and flinging itself on him.

Legei says in one swift move, he grabbed the leopard’s limb and limited its movement. By then, Joyce’s screams had attracted other dogs and young Maasai morans who came wielding spears.

On sensing danger, the leopard disengaged itself from Legei and disappeared into the bush.

It was over, and Legei had escaped death, but he had serious injuries. “He was bleeding so much I kept tearing my clothes to cover the wounds, but blood would seep right through it within seconds,” Joyce says.

He was rushed to DolDol hospital for treatment.

Marks of the battle

The ground where Legei fought for his life, just a few metres from his house, still bears the marks of the battle. Leopard fur, blood and slide marks that symbolise wildlife-human conflict – one that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says has been increasing due to drought in various parts of the country.

Paul Udoto, the KWS communications officer says lack of food and water makes wild animals to move closer to households and this puts human at the risk of attacks.

He says humans searching for water and pasture also venture into animals' habitat, resulting in a clash between man and wildlife.

“The current drought does not only affect food on our tables. It also affects how humans and wildlife interact,” says Udoto.

In a strange twist of fate, Legei’s father was killed by an elephant four years ago.

Ntikon Tikako and his friend were heading home late in the evening when an elephant appeared from the bush and blocked their way. His friend ran, but Ntikon was not as lucky. He stumbled and fell. The elephant trampled him, killing him instantly.

KWS has since set up a trap for the leopard at the scene where Legei was attacked, but locals feel they should find a park for the animals to reduce instances of attacks.

Maureen Lecher, the area assistant chief says residents have been complaining about wildlife that continually come to their houses, yet KWS warns them against killing the animals.

Locals are now threatening to kill any wild animal that gets into their compound. The KWS has however cautioned them against killing the animals, and instead wants them to report to the officers as soon as they spot them in their homes.

“How do you make a phone call to KWS when an animal is attacking you?” asks chairman of the Nyumba Kumi initiative in Ol King’eyi.

As the drought continues, the residents say they fear for their school-going children who have to manoeuver their way to avoid roaming wild animals which sometimes even enter the school compounds.

 

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