By Sarah Morrison
Anne Nyokabi does not remember much about the day her mother was killed. They were both out walking one morning near their home when an elephant charged. He picked up her mother with his tusks and threw her to the ground. As he stepped on her repeatedly, Ms Nyokabi passed out.
It took neighbours three hours to convince her to let the police take away her mother's body. Two years later, she struggles to talk about that day. In one moment, she lost her mother, her confidante and the loving grandmother to her five children.
Elephants do not often kill people, but in Laikipia, Kenya, a number of people have a similar story to share. It is what happens when humans and nature's giants live side by side. More than 70 per cent of Kenya's wildlife live outside of national parks and can encroach on villages any day. About 35 people are killed by elephants each year in Kenya, according to the Born Free Foundation. Others live with the threat of losing their livelihood in one night, as hungry elephants can trample their crops and destroy a water supply.
"The elephant is like a wound in my mind," Ms Nyokabi said. "I can't even come out of my house when I hear an elephant is near by. Every time I see one, I remember that day. I want them to be far away from here. If they are killed, that's even better. Then they won't be able to attack me."
This is why conservationists and politicians argue that if we are to halt the poaching crisis, communities in Kenya must start protecting the elephant. But until we mitigate the havoc the animals can cause, this will not happen. The situation is urgent. More than 100 African elephants are killed every day; in 2011 alone, almost 12 per cent of the population was destroyed. Kenya's elephant population has plummeted from about 167,000 to 35,000 within 40 years. Communities need to safeguard their elephants but here in Laikipia, where at least 35 have been illegally killed this year, there is one of the country's highest rates of human-wildlife conflict.
David Kimita, a 45-year-old farmer and father of four, blames elephants for the breakdown of his marriage. Every time he plants crops, elephants raid his farm, leaving him with nothing for his family. "My wife depended on me for food, so when there was none, she decided to go – four years ago," he said, adding that he now sees his children only three times a year. "I can't leave as no one would buy this farm. I don't want the elephants dead, but I want them to be removed from here or restricted from coming in."
Susan Wangari Thiongo, 39, who lives near by, has come to dread the nightly elephant raids that destroy her farm and says it is hard to provide for her five children. "It's a cycle and happens over and over again," she said. "We can't go anywhere else but we lose crops every year. The government needs to do something to keep the elephants from our farm." More....