Pamela Tiren has borne the brunt of human-wildlife conflict. She lives on the shores of Lake Baringo, at Siriangot village and can give details of what a snake bite entails. In 2007, her then three-year-old daughter, Gladys Chesang, was bitten by a snake and has been scarred for life; her hand became deformed. Pamela herself is a survivor of a snake bite.
Pamela too lost her mother and brother when they were attacked by wildlife. “Human-wildlife conflict has been a curse to my family. My brother was mauled by a hippopotamus and my mother was bitten by the same snake that bit me,” she says.
“My daughter still has snake poison in her body, she urgently needs medication, which I cannot afford. She dropped out of school because of the intense pain she has had to live with,” says Pamela.
A recent visit to the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) offices at Kabarnet town, 10 years after the snake bite that drastically changed her girl’s life, did not bear positive results. Avoid fake news!
“I was told that there was no compensation for snake bites at the time my child was bitten, and so she does not qualify,” says Pamela. According to area KWS Warden Dickson Too, snake bites were not compensated before 2013 but due to the nature of Pamela’s case, they could look into the matter.
“That is an isolated case, which we will take up and present to the head office,” he says. “Cases of snake bites in the area are many, as are attacks by elephants, crocodiles and hippopotamuses.
However, most of the are undocumented. Complaints are handled by the committee on compensation,” says Dickson.
Last year alone, snake bite victims required Sh1.5 billion compensation from KWS while the wildlife ministry had only budgeted for Sh250 million. Sixty two per cent of claims received between 2014 and 2016 arose from snake bites, according to KWS.
However, conservationist Gilbert Kiptala blames the agency in what he terms as evading the situation, which in turn spirals cases of human-wildlife conflict. “Any harm inflicted by wildlife should be compensated.
KWS should not run away from the reality when victims of the attacks are suffering,” says Gilbert. In the same village, Fred Ekal remembers one sunny afternoon in 2004 when his then 14-year-old son Ekitela Ekal was killed by a hippopotamus while fetching water on the shores of Lake Baringo.
Fred, a fisherman, was at a fishing expedition when he heard someone scream. “I headed to the shore intermediately, only to find my son missing. The crocodile had bitten off one of his legs and his body was missing. The search for his mutilated body ended in the evening, when his body parts were found,” says Fred.
Although he obtained a letter from the chief, and reported the matter to the police and the KWS offices, Fred is yet to be compensated for his son’s loss, 14 years later. The widower raises concern regarding dangers posed by the lake. “We bathe in the same lake, fetch drinking water there, walk in the same neighbourhoods hippopotamuses, crocodiles, elephants and snakes roam; we are not safe.”
Dickson, however, says that issues of compensation take longer. “When the victims or relatives fill in compensation forms, the County Wildlife Compensation Committee hands them over to the head office where they are handled at the ministry and finally Parliament level,” says Dickson.
Other victims of wildlife attacks from Siriangot village include eight-year-old Kennedy Lekikeny and Richard Chaskur, who too are living with permanent disabilities as a result of snake bites. “My son entirely depends on us, he cannot do anything with his deformed hand.
We sold almost all our goats, and held a fundraiser to further his treatment but we are yet to be compensated,” says Hassan Samuel, the boy’s father. County Chief Warden William Kimosop says the county has launched the Community Wildlife Conservation Fund to boost co-existence of man and wildlife.
“We are struggling with huge losses, with elephant-human conflict impacting on food security and other wildlife causing havoc,” he says. William says the fund will also oversee establishment of community conservancies in a bid to confine wildlife. Section 25 of the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act, 2013 stipulates that in the case of death, Sh5 million is paid to victims.
Cases of injury resulting in permanent disability will be compensated Sh3 million, according to the Act. Depending on extent of injury, other injuries attract a maximum of Sh2 million. Damaged crops are also compensated, based on the market value of the crops.