The rampant invasion of human settlements (or is it the other way round) by wildlife in the Mackinnon, Taru and Samburu areas of Kwale county could be a thing of the past, thanks to a 45 KM electric fence erected around the Tsavo East National Park.

The fence is part of a KES 42 million Mackinnon Road Community Environment Management project including afforestation, water provision and electric fencing. The bulk of the project funds (KES 23 million) was spent on the fence.

The project has been funded by the Danish Development Fund (DANIDA) through the Community Development Trust Fund (CDTF) and contributions from the Kinango Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and The International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP). The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) provided technical support.

The Tsavo fence was commissioned on Saturday by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Mr Mohamed Wa-Mwachai. The area around the national park has been a hotspot for human-wildlife conflict.

This conflict has affected economic activities in the area as herds of elephants have consistently destroyed crops and remained a constant threat to human lives. This had forced the local agricultural community to shift to other economic activities such as charcoal burning which has, in turn, led to deforestation.

The fence however faces a new challenge; vandalism by commercial cattle ranchers to allow their livestock access to pastures within the national park. During an inspection tour of the fence, Mr Wa-Mwachai’s entourage came across several spots where the new fence has been cut with machetes by herdsmen and even found some of the livestock grazing freely in the park.

The PS asked the local administration and the police to join hands with KWS rangers to stop the vandalism of the fence as this will reverse the gains made in resolving a long-standing human-wildlife conflict.

The fencing of wildlife sanctuaries is getting more enhanced especially now that the Wildlife Policy which is in parliament will provide for huge compensation for the destruction of lives and livelihoods once passed for implementation. With the new policy, it may be cheaper to protect human-wildlife conflicts through fencing than to pay the proposed compensation which is very prohibitive.

The Tsavo fence is currently being maintained by the community but they cannot keep up with the high rate of vandalism which is making the maintenance expensive.