By Raphael Mwadime
A row is simmering between pastoralists and ranchers over illegal grazing. On Sunday night, eight herders were arrested at Mgeno Ranch and 123 camels impounded for illegally grazing in the farm.
Taita Taveta Ranchers Association coordinator Donald Mombo said the herders stray in the ranches at night and are a security concern. He said the herders have been threatening to attack the ranch security men whenever they find them grazing in the ranch.
"When the animals are impounded by our security men, the illegal herders seek reinforcement from their colleagues who come armed with spears and pangas ready to attack our people before they forcefully take away their impounded animals. Our people live in fear due to the frequent attacks by the armed grazers," Mombo said.
He said the problem has persisted for long and called on government security agencies to intervene and flush out the illegal grazers from their ranch. "We want the herders removed from the ranches because we are gearing towards turning them into conservancies," he said.
The herders have prominently been linked to poaching of elephants in Taita Taveta ranches. Last month, three elephants were shot dead at Amaka ranch and their tusks hacked off. Kenya Wildlife Services rangers recovered the tusks while pursuing the poachers.
Out of the 51 elephants poached in Tsavo conservation area this year, 40 were killed at the ranches. The grazers also graze their camels and livestock into the parks, thus threatening tourism especially in Tsavo West where tourists have been complaining of seeing more livestock than wildlife.
In 2012, six people were seriously injured after a fight broke out between locals and the herders after they were found grazing their animals in maize farms.