By Charles Muasya
Kitui County government is concerned over the increased rate of poaching, depletion of environment through charcoal burning and establishment of structures in two game reserves. County executive in charge of tourism and natural resources Peter Nkunda said charcoal burners have displaced wildlife at Kitui South Game Reserve, adding that a school and a mosque have also been built.
He said encroachment of the gazetted reserve has prompted wildlife to move from their habitat which they use as a conduit from Tsavo East Game Reserve to Koru and Meru parks. Nkunda said the county government plans to revitalise the reserve and that of Mwingi not only to make the region a tourist circuit, but also to attract investors.
“The only way the government can raise additional revenue is to protect amazing cites like the game reserves which have rare wildlife, birds and valuable indigenous trees,” said Nkunda. He spoke yesterday after touring Kitui South Game Reserve where he witnessed the extent of destruction of flora and fauna by more than 1,000 charcoal burners and timber merchants.
“It is a pity that hundreds of livestock from a neighbouring county are grazing in the reserve not only driving the wildlife from their habitat, but also making the land bare,” said Nkunda. He said the only solution to the problem is to drive out those who have invaded the game reserves and establish eco-lodges.
Kenya Wildlife Service warden Mary Njigira said the reserve is no longer the home of lions, leopards and elephants which bore the brunt of poaching and environmental depletion. She, however, said eco-tourism facilities should be established to improve the livelihood of locals, adding that poverty and lack of alternative source of income forces them into charcoal burning.