Livestock-wildlife coexistence tested in Laikipia, Kenya, with on-going drought and conflicts

Masai tending his cattle, wildlife guard monitoring his White rhinoceros

Masai tending his cattle, wildlife guard monitoring his White rhinoceros (photo via Flickr/Alan Harper).

Cooperation is critical for coexistence in Laikipia, but achieving it will require the participation of cattle herders, landowners and the government.

‘The broad plains of Mugie, a huge estate on a high plateau northwest of Mount Kenya, are crisscrossed with cattle trails and the wildlife is mostly gone.

‘The knee-high grass remains, but not for long, manager Josh Perrett said.

‘Tensions between semi-nomadic pastoralists and settled landowners are nothing new, nor is competition between livestock and wildlife, but in Kenya’s central Laikipia highlands they are taking a destructive, sometimes violent turn.

‘Last month, about 30,000 livestock arrived on Mugie, displacing wildlife. The illegal herders—some armed with spears, others with AK-47s—cut through fences, making off with wire and posts. . . .

‘At the 17,600 hectare Suyian ranch, south of Mugie, thatched huts for tourists were burned down and shots fired last week as herders swept in. . . .

The dangerous situation in Laikipia is an acute expression of a chronic and complex tangle of population growth, livestock increases, overgrazing, erratic rainfall, climate change, weapons, money and politics.

‘A recently published four-decade study by the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi uncovered “catastrophic … widespread” declines in Kenyan wildlife as herds of livestock displace wild animals. . . .

In Kenya, Laikipia’s private and community reserves and ranches are the grassy frontier between the pastoralist north and the agricultural south.

‘. . . In easier times, neighboring communities are a buffer against illegal grazers, but when they come in their hundreds with tens of thousands of cattle they are unstoppable. . . .

‘Managing coexistence in an increasingly crowded world is a challenge for individuals and government, but residents and landowners said the Kenyan government is not playing its part. . . .

‘“The solution is coexistence, talking, dialogue. Recognizing that resources are limited and working out how to equitably divide it between wildlife and livestock,” Silvester said.’

Read the whole article by Tristan Mcconnell in the Taipeo Times/AFP: Livestock, wildlife compete for survival in Kenya’s highlands, 5 Feb 2017.

Read about the study referred to above on the ILRI Clippings blog: Urban expansion has devastated once-rich wildlife populations in lands south of Nairobi, Kenya, 28 Nov 2016, and ‘Extreme declines’ in wildlife populations in Kenya over past 4 decades—New study, 7 Oct 2016.

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