Kenya’s iconic Amboseli national park might be a paradise for wild animals, but it also poses a threat for humans and wildlife coexisting on the border. In recent news, Parkeru Ntereka, a 56-year-old herder, lost almost half of his goat herd to hungry lions that wandered into his pen. His loss made headlines in Kenya when it led to the spearing death of six lions in retaliation by the Maasai people, who have co-existed with wild animals for centuries. These killings have exposed the growing human-wildlife conflict in parts of East Africa, which conservationists claim, have been exacerbated due to the yearslong drought.
The predator population within the parks has increased, and hunger and thirst can send them into communities, causing significant loss to livestock owned by herders. Ntereka said losing 12 goats meant a huge loss to his large family, as he sells livestock to afford school fees.
The Big Life Foundation, which runs conservation programs in the area, has been offering compensation to herders who lose their livestock to predators. However, the compensation does not match market rates for cows, goats, and sheep. Herder Joel Kirimbu said that compensation should match market rates, as cows can cost up to 80,000 Kenyan shillings ($577) each, which cannot be compared to 30,000 shillings. He added that they receive very little compensation, which leads to them retaliating by killing lions.
Rosi Lekimankusi, a mother of five, also suffered a significant loss when 13 of her goats were killed by lions in the same village, Mbirikani, in Kajiado County, 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital, Nairobi. She feared that such lion attacks would become more common in her Maasai village, which borders Amboseli National Park.
The Big Life Foundation has been running the compensation program for 20 years and cannot afford to match market prices. However, they believe that at least expressing solidarity with herders for their loss is essential. Daniel Ole Sambu, who coordinates the foundation’s Predator Protection Program, said, “It could be a little just to make sure your anger goes down, but it’s better than nothing.” The foundation also provides scholarships to local children and support for medical facilities.
The human-wildlife conflict often makes headlines in Kenya, where tourism plays an essential role in the economy. The Kenya Wildlife Service is working on long-term solutions that will address this conflict while protecting both humans and wildlife.
For Ntereka, the herder, his fear of another lion attack is ever-present. He said, “Since the olden days, we believed that when a lion invades your home and eats your cows, it will still return even after 10 years. It will never forget that your home was once a source of food.”