This debate will not solve age-old conflict
Posted Wednesday, June 20 2012 at 17:15
A vigorous debate has broken out after the killing of six lions on the outskirts of Nairobi early on Wednesday.
Angry residents of a village in Kitengela in Kajiado speared to death the animals that had killed their livestock.
But outraged conservationists saw this as criminal slaughter of a valuable national heritage, an endangered species protected by law.
On the other side of the divide are voices equally forthright in support of an action they regard as self-defence and protection of property.
The Kenya Wildlife Service generally concurs with conservationists that killing game animals is illegal and those involved must be caught and punished.
This, however, is an issue that must be approached from a broader perspective than the simplistic prism of crime and punishment.
Human-wildlife conflict has been with us for a long time, and still remains to be addressed comprehensively.
In this case, there is the dilemma of whether the Nairobi National Park should finally be fenced, an idea anathema to naturalists aghast that a unique habitat would be turned into a giant zoo.
The uneasy co-existence is replicated everywhere in the country where parks and game reserves are right next to human settlements.
In many such areas, people are resentful that the government often seems more concerned about wildlife and the foreign tourists it attracts.
There is also the issue of growing competition for land. When people or their livestock are injured or killed by wildlife, compensation is usually slow in coming, and the amounts pitiable.
The Kenya Wildlife Service must take the lead in addressing this issue.
Ultimately we will need to develop policies that give the people a stake so they come to value wild animals as their own resource rather than seeing them as pests.