By Renson Mnyamwezi
TAITA TAVETA: Marauding elephants Wednesday night trampled to death a farmer in Taita Taveta County.
The incident comes at a time when the Government is still grappling with persistent human-wildlife conflict in the country.
The Wednesday incident has sparked public outcry among villagers of Kirumbi on the outskirts of Voi town.
County Police Commander Richard Bitonga and Taita Community Wildlife Warden Samuel Rukaria confirmed the death and said the farmer, Gibson Mwambanga Kinoi, was guarding his farm at the time of his death.
They said his body was removed and taken to Voi District Hospital mortuary while investigations have been launched.
Bitonga said the 37-year-old was attacked and killed by the elephants when he tried to chase them from his farm.
“The deceased was on his farm with his wife when the animals arrived. When he tried to stop the jumbos from destroying his mature food crops, they turned on him,” he said.
Villagers complained that the elephants had destroyed hundreds of acres of food crops, further compounding the famine situation in the region that is dependent on relief supplies from the Government and donors.
Sagala Ward Representative Godwin Kilele, in whose area the incident occurred, accused the Government of valuing wildlife more than human beings.
Mr Kilele said the residents’ pleas to have the jumbos driven out of human settlement areas have been ignored by Kenya Wildlife Service ( KWS) personnel.
However, Mr Rukaria said the situation was worsened by residents taking matters into their own hands instead of letting KWS rangers do their work.
“When animals feel threatened or are provoked, they will always attack. In this case, the deceased should not have confronted the animals. Rather, he should have called KWS to drive them back into Tsavo East National Park,” he said.
The incident comes at a time when the Government is yet to constitute the County Compensation Committee that is charged with verifying compensation claims.
Rukaria confirmed that the 10-member compensation committee is yet to be formed.
The Wildlife Compensation and Management Act says the Government shall establish a Wildlife Compensation Scheme that will be used to finance compensation claims for human death or injury or crop and property damage.
The Act states: “Where an individual suffers bodily harm or is killed by any wildlife listed under the Third Schedule, the person injured, or in the case of a deceased person, the personal representative or successor may launch a claim to the County Wildlife Conservation Committee within the jurisdiction established under the Act.”
The Act has set the amount for people killed by wildlife at Sh1 million and made provision for compensation for crops destroyed and livestock killed.