By Simbi Kusimba
Poachers from a neighbouring country in collusion with some Kenyans have killed more than 20 elephants in Mt Elgon National Park this year. This has prompted an inter-agency security operation to end the menace. Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka yesterday called for enforcement of the law to deter poachers in the park, as pigmy elephants are under threat.
He said a major roads upgrade project will be undertaken to open up remote areas and guarantee fast movement of people and goods to markets. "Improvement of roads will ensure that security agents move quickly in the pursuit of these criminals who are sabotaging economy of our county," he said.
He was speaking during a consultative forum convened by the Kenya Wildlife Service at Kapsokwony to chart the way forward in conserving the Mt Elgon's ecosystem which he termed "a very very grave matter".
Bungoma county commissioner Maalim Mohamed, Deputy Governor Hillary Chongwony, county MP Dr Reginalda Wanyonyi, Mt Elgon MP John Serut, Mt Elgon Kenya Wildlife Service warden Collins Omondi and top security chiefs from the police and the National Intelligence Service attended the meeting.
Besides the elephants, the park is also home to the Black Rhino and rare bird species. This has spurred the Bungoma government to embark on exploiting the area's tourism potential.
In the past, saw millers have also been harvesting the rare Elgon Teak found in the forest.
Chongwony differed sharply with Mohammed over the number of elephants killed by poachers since January. He said: "Poaching in Mt Elgon is now a serious issue with more than 20 elephants killed this year alone. Let us not trivialise matter. Stakeholders must not take a backseat.
Earlier, Mohamed had put the number of elephants killed by poachers as five.
He said KWS director William Kiprono has deployed a warden to oversee operation in Mt Elgon National Park after investigations revealed poachers in collaboration with some locals from a neighbouring country were butchering jumbos there.