Kenya: Devastating Drought Worsens Human-Wildlife Conflict

No grass for cattle

No grass in sight

Kenya is experiencing the worst drought in more than a decade according to the country's meteorological department. This drought has been felt throughout the country, but it is more visible among the Maasai community who's primary source of livelihood is cattle.

Faced by the danger of loosing their valued livestock, the Maasai, a traditional nomadic community resident in southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania, are driving their cattle into wildlife areas – and even cities – in search of pasture. This has worsened human-wildlife conflict as the weakened cows fall prey to lions and other predators.

The Lion Guardians blog reports that there has not been any good rain in two years.

The drought is worsening day by day. It has not rained properly for two consecutive years, and the pastoralist Maasai community who inhabit the [Mbirikani] group ranch have moved their livestock in three directions in search of greener pastures. The cows are all becoming very thin, and many are dying.

Predator Aware, a group that works towards conservation of predators, is also reporting some dire situations in Masai Mara wildlands and Siana ranches in the southern part of Kenya. In the Predetor Aware blog they say:

The Masai Mara and Siana in particular is running out of grazing [pasture] as the need for rain continues. Last night there appeared to be a storm over the Reserve some where. We are hoping this is an indicator and more rain will come. This dry weather really increases the human-wildlife conflict as the search for water and grazing goes on.

Although wildlife are better able to cope with drought, cattle are very badly hit. The Maasai, being traditionally nomadic pastoralists, will do what they have done for generations, they will move their cattle to seek pasture. It happens that the only places with open pasture are protected areas such as national parks and reserves. Ironically, most of the world famous parks in Kenya were carved out of traditional Maasai reserve pastures. The Lion Guardians blog describes the movement of the Maasai groups living adjacent to Amboseli National Park:

The first group moved their livestock all the way to Manyara in Tanzania. Others decided to take their cattle to Tsavo West National Park, but they have been experiencing serious clashes with the park authorities, who are trying to prevent the pastures of the national park from being overgrazed by cattle, leaving the ground bare.

Some of the these herders have traveled with their cattle for more than 400 km in search of pasture and water. Some have moved northwards towards Nairobi City after a little rain was reported some weeks ago, while others have moved south into Tanzania.

The severity of the drought can be heard in the words of ole Lentura, the key blogger at Predator Aware. ‘The days bring hot sun and a lot of wind’, says ole Lentura who reports that wildlife that are traditionally grazers (feed on grass) are being forced to browse on trees and bushes as they adapt to the absence of grass.

“Elders in the group ranch are describing this drought as the worst ever, and with price of consumer goods sky-rocketing while the price of selling livestock and other domestic products are falling, the situation is triggering a catastrophic food crisis” say the Lion Guardians.

Of the human wildlife conflict ole Lentura of Predator Aware says “No predator incidents to report but another Maasai man sadly was killed by a buffalo over the weekend. This human-wildlife conflict will not lessen until we get some good rain.”


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