Home       About us   Issues     Search     Submission Subscribe   Contact    Login 
Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
Users Online: 1181 Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size

Previous articleTable of Contents Next article

Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 408-428

Interactions between Humans and Wildlife: Landowner Experiences Regarding Wildlife Damage, Ownership and Benefits in Laikipia District, Kenya

Interdisciplinary Studies, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Correspondence Address:
Oscar Wambuguh
Department of Health Sciences (Environmental Health), California State University (East Bay), 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward, CA 94541
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

Rights and Permissions
Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009


Substantial biological diversity exists in areas outside protected areas and its survival depends on the goodwill extended by private landown­ers. To ensure that those landowners contribute to biodiversity conservation efforts in mutually beneficial partnerships, it is important to understand their socio-economic backgrounds and historical heritage, land use patterns and expectations, and biodiversity education needs as a basis of formulating in­clusive conservation policies. The goal of this study was to explore some of the issues arising from interactions between local landowners and wildlife in a prominent wildlife area in Kenya. Interviews were conducted with 377 pri­vate landowners in Laikipia District of north-central Kenya falling in three categories: small-scale, pastoralist and large-scale. Landowners differed in many respects regarding wildlife benefits, wildlife damage and mitigation, benefits, ownership and possible solutions primarily based on their economic backgrounds, land-parcel size and land use, traditional history and knowl­edge about biodiversity. In all ownerships, the elephant (Loxodonta africana)was the most dominant animal in terms of size and its potential to cause in­jury or death and damage to property. The most favoured methods of deter­ring wildlife were traditional (in small-scale and pastoralist ownerships)including bonfires, iron-sheet beating and sound whips; while in many large ownerships modern methods were favoured, primarily the use of firearms to shoot in the air. Many landowners stated that benefiting from wildlife utilisa­tion directly, was very important to them. Suggested long-term solutions emphasised direct wildlife benefits, compensation for property damages, problem animal control, investment in development projects and biodiversity education.

Keywords: wildlife, biodiversity, conservation, wildlife benefits, wildlife damage, wildlife control, compensation

How to cite this article:
Wambuguh O. Interactions between Humans and Wildlife: Landowner Experiences Regarding Wildlife Damage, Ownership and Benefits in Laikipia District, Kenya. Conservat Soc 2007;5:408-28

How to cite this URL:
Wambuguh O. Interactions between Humans and Wildlife: Landowner Experiences Regarding Wildlife Damage, Ownership and Benefits in Laikipia District, Kenya. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2007 [cited 2020 Jul 3];5:408-28. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2007/5/3/408/49247

   Introduction Top

THE WORLD CONSERVATION STRATEGY, developed over two decades ago, rec­ognised the need to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems to ensure sustainable resource utilisation and preservation of the earth's genetic diversity (IUCN 1980). The main challenge to implementing this strategy has been the development of appropriate tools, which includes development of policies and approaches suitable for different areas and cul­tures (Kiss 1990; Songorwa & Buhrs 2000). Developing such tools applicable to diverse areas requires specific local information that is not always avail­able. Conservation of biodiversity has become more complicated than conser­vationists once thought, hence approaches to its conservation, as practiced today, have therefore increased in number, scope and complexity (Redford et al. 2003).

In many of the developing countries in Africa, most wildlife live outside protected areas. These protected areas include national parks, national re­serves, conservation areas and privately owned land. Areas outside of pro­tected areas fall largely within the jurisdiction of private landowners. In many countries, private landowners have full user rights of the resources on their property in the best way they deem necessary with only minor exceptions. For instance, in the protection of endangered or threatened wildlife or develop­ment initiatives whose impact extends beyond any one landowner (as in tap­ping river water for irrigation). With increasing human population in developing countries, human activities that are detrimental have also in­creased and there have been irreversible effects on the environment. Such ac­tivities have been on the increase in the last three decades. As we progress this century, we not only have to re-define the role of humans and of wildlife in the environment they share, but we must also retune our current conserva­tion priorities with better, smarter, focused and perhaps strategic approaches (Infield 2001; Kuriyan 2002; Western 2003; Fabricius et al. 2004; Rogers 2005).

With only minor direct benefits reaching landowners at present from wild­life countrywide, and no other form of compensation to mitigate wildlife dam­ages, public attitudes towards wildlife remain unfavourable especially among among small-scale farmers and pastoralists. This study was based on prelimi­nary observations by myself and others that indicated most landowners in the Laikipia District of Kenya, appeared to have become extremely intolerant of wildlife in general because of a perceived negative cost-benefit ratio between themselves and wildlife. This article, guided by insights gained from a 2-year study on landowners and biodiversity conservation in Kenya, discusses issues that appear to reinforce the notion that in the developing countries of Africa, our success in conserving biological diversity this century will be gauged by the attention given to areas outside protected areas. This means appreciating and understanding the needs, activities and aspirations of local landowners. The article particularly focuses on issues raised by landowners including hu­man threat and injury from wildlife; wildlife damage reporting and mitigation; derivation of direct wildlife benefits and biodiversity conservation; and ends by a discussion of suggested management alternatives.

   Study Area Top

This study took place in Laikipia District in north-central Kenya, a plateau lo­cated east of the Great Rift Valley between latitudes 0°17'S-0°45'N and lon­gitudes 36°10'E-37°3'E hemmed in the west by the Aberdares range, to the south and south-east by Mt. Kenya, and to the east by the Mukogodo hills. It averages 2000 m in altitude and rises to over 2500 m on the Aberdares slopes and 2250 m on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. With an area of approximately 9723 km 2 , most of Laikipia is low country with numerous broad and generally grassy volcanic ridges cut into by two major rivers Narok and Ewaso Nyiro with various tributaries flowing down from the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya. These rivers serve as perennial water sources to the livestock-ranching activi­ties that predominate in Laikipia district. Land use in Laikipia shows great di­versity in origin, appearance and impact on society and ecosystem, and its different modes form a complex that with further examination reveals some of the most fundamental changes that have taken and continue to take place in the utilisation of land in post-colonial Kenya. The dominant land use is large­scale ranching under non-African ownership (between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the district); African ownership (7.8 per cent) and state ownership (8.5 per cent). Small-scale farming that arose as a result of government resettle­ment schemes soon after political independence in 1963 today comprises less than 5 per cent of the district. Pastoralism that is more confined in the north and the north-eastern part of the district comprises about 13 per cent of the district.

   Materials and Methods Top

Primarily based on their economic backgrounds, land-parcel size and land use, traditional history and knowledge about biodiversity, I expected landowners to differ in many respects regarding wildlife benefits, wildlife damage and mitigation, ownership and possible solutions. The landowner study population therefore consisted of three ownership types: (1) small-scale subsistence land­owners undertaking mixed farming (i.e. livestock and crop agriculture); (2) pastoralist landowners and (3) large-scale landowners who mostly practice livestock-ranching in Laikipia District. For interviews, I visited fifteen of the largest large-scale ownerships, which represented about 75 per cent of the large-scale area in Laikipia District. In small-scale ownerships, I chose a ran­domised convenience sample, as discussed by Scheaffer et al. (1996), of 279 landowners for interviews using the following procedure: eighteen landown­ers were chosen in each of the eight bigger farming schemes in the District, and nine landowners were chosen in each of the fifteen other areas (for a total of twenty-three out of seventy-five small-scale ownerships in the District). In pastoralist areas, interviews were conducted in ten of the fourteen Group Ranches in the District. In each of those ranches, I chose a randomised con­venience sample of eight individual bomas (a boma is defined as eight to ten Maasai houses close together in the same compound, with a total of around twenty to thirty inhabitants). For analysis, I treated large-scale ownerships in the results individually and pastoralist ownerships as Group Ranches. In small-scale ownerships, I considered the numerous small property sizes as part of a larger administrative unit called a sub-location or 'scheme', which produced mapping and analysis units of comparable area to the other two types. [2] tests of homogeneity and independence (Wilkinson & Engelman 1996; Zar 2006) were used for statistical analyses.

   Limitations of the Study Top

I believe that data collected from individuals could be biased up or down be­cause sampling could not be completely random. Sampling biases were un­avoidable due to the long distances between individual households or bomas, the poor (or non-existent) roads and in certain areas, inaccessibility especially when it rained. For instance, landowners in poorly accessible valley bottoms and higher elevations were difficult to reach and I could therefore not inter­view them. Nevertheless, the study gives us a glimpse of important landowner perspectives regarding conservation and biodiversity in Laikipia, which can provide some direction in wildlife policy analysis and focus points for further research.

   Results Top

Threat of Human Injury

In small-scale ownerships, 95 per cent of landowners reported that they lived under threat of bodily harm by wildlife; while in pastoralist and large-scale ownerships, 85 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively, reported the same [Table 1]. For 1996, those reporting wildlife-inflicted injury and deaths were highest in pastoralist ownerships [Table 1]. The responses among landowners in all ownerships were significantly different.

Regardless of ownership type, over 90 per cent of all cases of wildlife threats, injuries and deaths were attributed to one animal: elephant, and the rest to buffalo, lion and hippo in order of importance [Table 2].

Wildlife Damage Mitigation

Many landowners routinely report damages to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) [Table 3]. However, in small-scale areas less than a third (30 per cent) of those sampled reported damage and up to 94 per cent of them used an as­sortment of methods to scare-off wildlife [Table 3]. The differences in re­sponses among the three landowner types were significant. Responses from small-scale and pastoralist landowners correlated weakly (r = 0.49, p < 0.05); while their combined responses correlated negatively with those of large-scale landowners (r = -0.54, p < 0.05).

New Legislation

A new government policy of not compensating landowners for wildlife dam­ages was established in 1990. Only 28 per cent of small-scale; 41 per cent of pastoralist and 100 per cent of large-scale landowners stated they were aware of the enactment. Asked why the government would effect such critical policy changes affecting thousands of people, many landowners stated that the pre­vious compensation programme was plagued with corruption, over-estimated damages, ignorance of local peoples' needs, lack of funds for compensation, and some had no idea why [Table 4]. The differences in responses among the three ownership types were significant [Table 4].

Wildlife Ownership

While all large-scale landowners interviewed stated wildlife proprietorship was important to them, small-scale and pastoralist landowners stated that de­riving benefits from wildlife mattered to them the most [Table 5]. The differ­ences in ownership responses were significant among the three ownership types.

Management Alternatives Suggested

To minimise wildlife-associated problems in Laikipia District, landowners had a number of suggestions directed to the KWS [Table 6]. While most small-scale farmers (78 per cent) felt that KWS should keep all wildlife away from farming areas; fewer pastoralist and large-scale landowners felt so. Compensation for wildlife damage is a major issue in Laikipia, and all landowners felt strongly about the initiation of some form of government compen­sation programme [Table 6]. A majority of landowners (95 per cent small­scale; 90 per cent pastoralists and 100 per cent large-scale) felt that they needed to benefit from wildlife on their property. Regarding education of landowners about biodiversity, a majority of large-scale landowners felt it was important [Table 6]. There were significant differences in responses among landowners in the three ownership types, except for responses about land­owner derivation of benefits from wildlife. Landowners in the three owner­ship types strongly differed on two issues: complete removal of wildlife from their properties and biodiversity education [Table 6].

Wildlife Appreciation and Utilisation

More than half of all small-scale landowners (67 per cent) believed they gained nothing directly from wildlife, while 19 per cent of pastoralist and 4 per cent of large-scale landowners agreed with this point [Table 7]. Nearly half of the large-scale and pastoralists landowners believed they were benefit­ing from consumptive wildlife utilisation, while about a third of small-scale landowners believed so. None of the small-scale farmers believed they were benefiting from non-consumptive wildlife values, while 51 per cent of large­scale landowners and 33 per cent of pastoralists believed they did. A few small-scale landowners (5 per cent) stated they utilised wildlife (particularly smaller mammals) via subsistence hunting [Table 7]. The differences in re­sponses among landowners in the three ownership types regarding the per­ceived wildlife benefits were significant.

Many landowners appreciated the role of wildlife in general, and the impor­tance of conserving biodiversity for foreign exchange [Table 8]. A surprising number of landowners (contrary to popular opinion about the small-scale and pastoralist landowners) valued wildlife on aesthetic grounds [Table 8]. More­over, a large number of landowners appreciated the value of biodiversity as a reservoir of genetic diversity [Table 8]. There was however a small percentage of landowners who found nothing good in the idea of conserving biodi­versity [Table 8]. There were significant differences in the responses given by landowners among the three ownership types.

Landowners suggested a number of ways in which they would like to utilise wildlife if allowed to [Table 9]. While the majority of large-scale (75 per cent) and small-scale (54 per cent) landowners would like to crop wildlife, only 35 per cent of pastoralists were interested in this option [Table 9]. Safari hunting was attractive to 88 per cent of the pastoralists and 86 per cent of large-scale landowners, but only 35 per cent of the small-scale landowners. Tourism was another popular option for most large-scale landowners (90 per cent) and pastoralists (95 per cent) [Table 9]. Game farming was suggested as an option by all landowners [Table 9]. A small percentage of small-scale landowners however, opposed to having wildlife on their properties, stated they would not consider any wildlife utilisation on their properties whatsoever [Table 9].

   Discussion Top

Threat of Human Injury

According to a KWS (1994) report most wildlife attacks on humans in Kenya appear to be perpetrated (in order of importance) by elephant, buffalo, lion, and occasionally by leopard, hippo and crocodile. The pattern seen in Laikipia [Table 2] closely correlated with this national ranking. Landowners in Lai­kipia live with wildlife threat, injury and sometimes wildlife-caused death which, according to data collected in this study, appeared to have more seri­ous implications in small-scale and pastoralist ownerships than in large-scale ones (Irigia 1990; Mulama 1990; Thouless 1993; [Table 1]). In the former ar­eas, people generally travelled from place to place on foot or by bicycle and many of those injured or killed by wildlife were adults; the rest were school children who had to travel long distances to school, or take care of livestock in the bush. Gender appeared not important in terms of risk exposure between women and men. Males were usually at risk primarily due to their social ac­tivities in the early evening that took them to neighbourhoods a distance away from their own homes, and many were also involved in off-farm income gen­eration travelling long distances to trading centres (Kohler 1987). Females on the other hand were more exposed to dangerous wildlife when they were fetching household water from rivers, collecting firewood in the bushes, when working on their farms and when travelling for social activities (often on weekends). In large-scale ownerships, wildlife threat was present but less se­rious because people there used vehicles and had rifles to shoot in the air to scare dangerous animals away. Attacks came only occasionally when farm workers were off-duty and had to travel to trading centres or to their homes, which involved travelling long distances on foot. Relying on irregular vehicle rides that dropped them off somewhere along the way, added to the danger. According to KWS (2007), no wildlife crop or property damages are compen­sated at this time except for cases of wildlife-caused human death, which is compensated at US$215, an amount that cannot help families who may have lost their sole family income earner.

Wildlife Damage Mitigation by Landowners

Small-scale and pastoralist landowners (the majority of whom had no fire­arms) protected themselves against wildlife injury and damage in a number of ways, most of which were directed towards the most ubiquitous and perceived 'most damaging' animal, the elephant. Elephants' known dislike of fires and sharp, loud noises by landowners had resulted in many innovative techniques of scaring them off [Table 3]. The incorporation of 24-hour wildlife surveil­lance teams and other methods was common. For instance, small huts built with dried thatch grass in close proximity to farms strategically located in view of the entire farm (sometimes several, depending on farm size) were a common sight. Family members and farm labourers took turns guarding the farms while taking refuge in the huts. This costly undertaking many farmers stated, was justified not only on the grounds of the potential damage elephants caused, but also the expected revenue returns if crops (such as cabbage and tomatoes) reached harvesting age with only minimal damage. In few cases, 'thunder-flashes' were issued to landowners, by local KWS offices, and only to landowners who demonstrated they had either military training or previous knowledge of using explosives to scare-off wildlife (local warden, pers. comm.). (Thunder-flashes are a form of very mild explosives that explode on impact and are usually thrown in areas with elephants.) They explode with a loud sound when they hit the ground. In recent years, many farmers have complained of frequent leopard attacks on guard dogs that have seriously re­duced dog numbers. This has left farmers more vulnerable to other animals because dogs, by barking, usually warn them of impending wildlife attacks. On large-scale ownerships, where rangers and other farm workers had rifles, shooting in the air was common that scared elephants temporarily from the farms. Depending also on the extent of damage, shooting at elephants was not uncommon. Large ownership sizes and land use differences also made some techniques used by large-scale landowners of limited application in small­scale and pastoralist ownerships.

Reporting Wildlife Damages

Numerous wildlife species occur in Laikipia and the three most frequently en­countered ones in small-scale areas were elephant (reported by 94 per cent of landowners), zebra (89 per cent) and jackal (56 per cent). Although elephant was rarely present year-around in Laikipia, it was the only species many land­owners stated they frequently encountered. It is believed that this high fre­quency is more related to landowner perceptions and experiences of the intensity and extent of its damage, than to its physical presence. Many land­owners did not report damage caused by wildlife (small-scale, 70 per cent; pastoralist, 64 per cent and large-scale, 83 per cent) perhaps due to a number of reasons. (1) Losses would not be compensated according to KWS policy, but delays in processing claims were also cited (KWS 1994; Wafula 1995). (2) Commuting distances involved from farms to wildlife offices were often long and landowners' farm schedules too inflexible. (3) In most cases, dam­age did not occur wholesale (that is all crops damaged, something that would probably encourage reporting), but in distinct periods, each of which appeared insufficient to warrant reporting by itself (although these damages added up for any given season). (4) Landowners reported being harassed (e.g. by rude commands) by personnel at wildlife offices and delayed considerably before they were allowed to leave. (5) It was very expensive to travel from the inte­rior of district especially in the rainy season when there were no public means of transport, and farmers had to rely on infrequent rides necessitating spend­ing a night or two in town on rented accommodation. (6) The dangers of travel especially when elephants were abundant were also a factor landowners considered.

The small percentage of landowners who reported damage did so only when: (1) damage was very extensive, for instance when elephants caused ex­tensive damage to maize fields, irrigated vegetables fields or to electric fenc­ing; (2) they had their own transport and usually commuted to towns frequently; (3) they believed that should the government re-establish compen­sation for damages, their cases would already be on record; (4) they believed KWS needed the information for wildlife management purposes and (5) some large-scale landowners routinely met with senior KWS officials in local and international meetings, at KWS headquarters and at social gatherings. Many pastoralists reporting damage did it indirectly, through large-scale farmers who forwarded the reports to KWS headquarters or to KWS local offices. In some group ranches, local political leaders (e.g. political party activists) kept wildlife damage records of the communities composing the group ranch, all members reporting losses to him on a daily basis. The list was then compiled on a monthly basis recording type of loss; type, age and number of livestock involved; the animal responsible and where it happened. Kingoria (1996) re­ported similar meticulous record keeping in some group ranches in his study. Once damage was reported at KWS local offices, entries were made in the 'Occurrence Book' with date, name of reporter, the problem, responsible ani­mal and the action recommended by a responsible officer (local warden, pers. comm.). Those records, together with the routine patrols KWS undertook, helped keep track of what was happening in their jurisdictions, and therefore allowed them to put the resources at their disposal to best use. However, it is believed by many landowners interviewed that nepotism, corruption and po­litical interference sometimes complicated compensation issues at both local and head KWS offices.

Wildlife Ownership and Derivation of Benefits

The issue of wildlife ownership has been of central concern in many parts of Africa (Child 1991, 1996, 2002; Murphree 1991, 1993; Cumming 1993; Lewis 1993; O'Loughlin 1998; Hulme & Murphree 2001), but in no country has the government fully relinquished its responsibilities for wildlife to other authorities. At most, the central government has given statutory authority to local county councils who are under the central Ministry of Local Govern­ment. County councils on the other hand, have not been forthcoming in allow­ing local communities proprietorship over wildlife (Hulme & Murphree 2001). Although all large-scale landowners interviewed in Laikipia stated ownership and full responsibility for wildlife were matters very important to them, others considered it unimportant, as long as they derived benefits from wildlife [Table 5]. Reviewing the literature available on this topic, it seems unlikely that full proprietorship of wildlife will ever be relinquished to land­owners, especially because of world politics, the role wildlife plays in na­tional economies in many African nations, and because there are managerial advantages of having most conservation and management of wildlife overseen by one central organisation (Dudley et al 1999; Hulmes & Murphree 2001; Child 2004; McShane & Wells 2004). For example, monitoring migratory wildlife is best done by a central government.

From the results of this study it is clear that the majority of small-scale landowners perceived no benefits from wildlife, while other landowners did [Table 6]. Owing to their farming background, many small-scale landowners (and probably the other landowners to a small extent) may have less faith in wildlife utilisation programmes for a number of reasons. (1) Benefits from wildlife utilisation programmes are substantially delayed by technical, mar­keting and organisational problems that are expensive and must be overcome. (2) Lack of attendance and interest to programme meetings for most landown­ers. (3) The general illiteracy among most landowners may not allow the ap­preciation of the need to utilise wildlife as a sustainable resource. (4) The nature of settlements with most still relatively new; and with large distances from each other, forces that would cement communities with common needs, problems and aspirations are still in the making (Sottas & Yvan 1995). (5) Organisation-to most small-scale landowners, benefits that must filter through committees and depend on individual initiative are discouraging be­cause of past high failure rates caused by low managerial capacity and poor operational skills, lack of financing, insufficient commitment and poor techni­cal assistance (Leonard & Marshall 1982). These can further be complicated by financial misappropriations, unjustified expenditures and partisan politics. (6) Alternatives-some landowners stated they did not need wildlife because they had so many productive, dependable and predictable alternatives for in­come that require no special skills to perform, and which depended only on their own initiatives particularly crop and dairy farming. As found by Kohler (1987) and Wiesmann (1993) agricultural crop potential is enough for most landowner needs, at least over the short term, especially if supplemented by other income. (7) Uncertainty-wildlife utilisation, not only in Laikipia but countrywide, is currently plagued by a multitude of problems (logistical, pol­icy and marketing) that will require substantial resources to solve (KWS 1991, 1994, 2007). There was uncertainty amongst landowners in some areas about wildlife availability. Further, technical problems of wildlife capture, processing and product marketing aggravate the problem of sustaining land­owner interest and faith in utilisation.

Most landowners however, agreed on the need to conserve biodiversity in Laikipia for the general benefits they bring to the country especially the much needed foreign currency [Table 8]. Nonetheless, many landowners disagreed that the best way to ensure continued national benefits was status quo; therefore, substantial resources must be expended not only to encourage landowner participation and derivation of benefits from wildlife utilisation, but also to minimise the costs of living with wildlife in this region.

Suggested Management Alternatives

Landowner suggestions for possible wildlife management alternatives in Lai­kipia differed in nearly all respects among the three ownerships [Table 6] which can be accounted for by the various differences between the three land­owner types. These include: (1) Landowner traditional culture-for instance, small-scale landowners come from a crop-cultivation tradition, pastoralists come from a livestock pastoralism tradition and large-scale landowners come from a livestock-ranching background. (2) Education and economic inter­ests-knowledge about multiple land uses and how they could be combined to further landowner economic interests appeared to be influencing choices landowners made. (3) Availability of investment capital-availability of funds was important in determining what landowners suggested as solutions. (4) Land holding sizes-land availability was important in determining what landowners considered practical and worth pursuing economically.

Due to the importance of developing, strengthening and sustaining partner­ships with local landowners (Rutagarama & Martin 2006) outside protected areas where most wildlife resides, a more detailed discussion of these man­agement alternatives suggested is necessary. Infield (2001) has noted that al­though initiatives to encourage and partner with rural people in biodiversity conservation have received wide support, they have largely remained ignored in practice.

Wildlife Damage Compensation

A large number of landowners believed that lack of government resources more than any other reason, was the cause of slow progress in resolving issues [Table 4]. This proposition has merit because resources cannot be available to cater for all government programmes, even in highly affluent western nations like the United States. However, some other propositions discussed below, point more to a feeling amongst rural landowners of a lack of genuine com­mitment to their problems by the Kenya government, and therefore a strong feeling of alienation. The issue of compensation, where all losses to wildlife are paid for at the individual farmer level, generates a lot of controversy, ex­citement and mixed responses nationwide (KWS 1994). Because most land­owners interviewed in Laikipia strongly advocated it [Table 8], a brief historical perspective to this issue is necessary.

For many years prior to 1990, farmers in Kenya were compensated for losses they incurred as a result of wildlife depredation. The policy was changed in 1990 as the organisation responsible for wildlife affairs in Kenya was converted from a wholly government-run department [Wildlife Conserva­tion and Management Department (WCMD)] to a state corporation, the KWS. This brought more independence to KWS from government red tape in most important decisions affecting its operations, finance and hiring (KWS 1991). Compensation for wildlife damage is only done by the government today in cases where people have been injured or killed by wildlife. The impetus be­hind the enactment was that compensation to landowners for wildlife-related damages was introduced by the colonial government specifically for white farmers in the years before independence (KWS 1991). The practice was con­tinued by the Kenya government after independence in 1963 for all farmers, until the practice was discontinued in 1990. Having been practiced for less than 30 years, there was hope that the new policy would only remain an issue for a short while. Landowners would then revert to pre-compensation days, when wildlife damage was considered a fate of life as was rocky soil or drought.

Prior to the 1990 legislative amendment, landowners reported to their dis­trict's wildlife office when they experienced wildlife damage. Damages were then assessed with the help of wildlife wardens based in the district and for­warded to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Headquarters for processing. Subsequently, payments were then made by the Treasury. With time, massive corruption escalated such that farmers could bribe their way into having their losses over-estimated, and non-farmers in the district (even district non­residents) could submit claims. After what seemed like lengthy 'delibera­tions', the government would eventually pay all reported claims. Claim documents were reported to accumulate in the Ministry Headquarters for as long as 8 years, and even then farmers still expected (and some did) obtain payment. It gradually became obvious to landowners that reporting wildlife damage was not worthwhile, unless losses were indeed overwhelming (Wood­ley & Snyder 1978; KWS 1991, 1994).

Landowners believed there were a number of factors that led the govern­ment to amend the compensation policy [Table 4]. Whilst over-estimation of damages and corruption on the part of landowners has been cited (KWS 1991), many landowners interviewed believed most landowners were fairly accurate in their estimates, but there could have been over-estimates. Corrup­tion plagues many government operations especially in developing countries for several reasons (reviewed by Price 1975), which he believes emphasises the culture of the people and the political and economic character of develop­ing nations. Nevertheless, corruption probably promotes some economic de­velopment by capital formation, and promotes peace and stability although it generally retards overall development, and compromises goals of modernisa­tion (Price 1975).

So distant were landowners in Laikipia from the present situation regarding compensation for wildlife damages that, up to 78 per cent (small-scale) and 59 per cent (pastoralists) of them were still not aware of this enactment 7 years later. The type of compensation landowners anticipate today, involves pay­ment for all losses incurred from wildlife. This type of compensation could come in two ways: one, direct, where KWS helps assess all damages for all reported cases, and then takes prompt action in liaising with the Ministry and Treasury towards settling these costs; and two, indirect, where wildlife bene­fits are used for compensation, and the remainder shared amongst landowners (Child & Peterson 1991; Child 1996; Hulme & Murphree 2001). Surprisingly, although they called for it, many landowners on closer reflection appeared skeptical of the first type of compensation because they believed that the or­ganisational and management capacity required to make such a comprehen­sive programme regular, dependable and efficient was currently unavailable both within the KWS or within the central government. So, most landowners opted for the second alternative, where wildlife utilisation is liberalised and at the end of each year, local wildlife committees meet and disburse some of their yearly wildlife returns, first to those who have incurred damages during that particular year, and then deliberate on how to use the remainder. This programme has worked reasonably well in some places, especially in the southern African states of Zimbabwe and Zambia, where community wildlife utilisation programmes have been in place for relatively long periods (Child 1991, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006; Murphree 1991; Lewis 1993). One advantage of this method of compensation is its facilitation of community cohesion in planning, organising, prioritising and making choices (Berger 1989). Com­pensating landowners for wildlife-related damages has become such an issue that, many studies have called for adoption of a comprehensive compensation scheme as part of a conflict management strategy for wildlife areas (see for example Kiss 1990; KWS 1991, 1994; Lewis & Carter 1993; Murombedzi 1999; Hulme & Murphree 2001; Infield 2001; Rutagarama & Martin 2006).

The lack of government commitment towards rural people was also sug­gested to explain the Kenya government's compensation policy enactment. This suggestion may have some merit, especially considering the number of authors in the last three decades, who have analysed, discussed and recom­mended various ways of directing more assistance, via reforming and restruc­turing services given to rural people (for example Uphoff & Esman 1974; Korton 1980; Moris 1981; Leonard & Marshall 1982; Hofstede 1983; Cham­bers 1983; Leonard 1993; Peterson 1999; Western 2001; Berkes 2004; McShane & Wells 2004).

Removing all Potential Problem Wildlife

The issue of human security in wildlife areas in Kenya is a sensitive matter nationally (KWS 1994, 2007). There is no amount of benefit from wildlife that could make landowners sacrifice their own lives. Currently, the govern­ment compensates US$545 for the loss of one human life and US$273 for in­jury to humans attributed to wildlife. Due to the lengthy process of documentation from the local KWS office through the headquarters and the Ministry, compensation may take approximately 5 years to process (KWS 2007). Threat of human injury therefore, together with the property damages wildlife cause, along with few tangible benefits reaching landowners must be the reasons why an overwhelming majority (78 per cent, [Table 6]) of small­scale farmers wanted wildlife removed from their property. Only if these threats are mitigated would landowners in this category reluctantly consider other alternatives.

Among large-scale and pastoralist ownerships, the proportion of farmers suggesting removal of all wildlife were relatively low (23 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively) most likely because: (1) most landowners in this category have been in Laikipia longer or were born there and wildlife presence has be­come an important part of their lives; (2) the level of benefit from wildlife is higher in those larger ownerships than in small-scale ownerships [Table 7]; (3) most landowners acknowledge the potential in wildlife utilisation espe­cially if it is facilitated by legislation and other government support; (4) a va­riety of wildlife remains abundant and; (5) land-parcel sizes are large enough to form unfragmented conservation habitat. In the final analysis, the option of removing wildlife is unrealistic because, besides being operationally and fi­nancially impossible to move all problem animals, there is simply nowhere to take them to and the world community would not be eager to see all animals mass slaughtered outright. The total elephant population alone in and around Laikipia is about 3000 animals (Thouless 1993, 1994). Finally, removing all the animals (were it economically and politically possible), would only create room for more animals to move into Laikipia which is part of a huge ecosys­tem that encompasses Samburu, Isiolo, Meru, Nyeri and Laikipia Districts.

Assistance in Development Projects

Development projects, which include building dispensaries, tap-water pro­jects, cattle dips and roads, and which the KWS Wildlife Partnerships De­partment has been introducing to local people as inducements to value wildlife (KWS 2007), may not be a popular option to landowners, according to the results of this study. This could be due to several reasons like: (1) de­velopment projects are regarded as government endeavours that would still happen if given enough time (cutting short this waiting time by KWS does not seem to sensitise the community in the desired direction); (2) many small­scale landowners do not consider KWS actions any different from those of the central government, and perceptions are that the central government is simply acting through KWS, hence many landowners are not able to translate or link the goals of KWS to development projects (this points to a prime need for education about biodiversity to local landowners); (3) development projects help everyone including those experiencing no damage from wildlife, hence issues of inequity among landowners arise; (4) a significant number of people interviewed did not like the idea of KWS handing-out money for local devel­opment, fearing this might subtly encourage dependence and promote suspi­cion that KWS may have a hidden, probably devastating, agenda for landowners and finally, (5) the priorities of development projects are biased by both KWS and local elites that may not always reflect the views of the ma­jority of landowners. However, developmental projects that help the commu­nity, administered correctly and in a timely manner is a promising way that has the potential to realise substantial biodiversity conservation benefits (Newmark & Hough 2000).

Biodiversity Education and Wildlife Utilisation

Although only a relatively small proportion of landowners in small-scale and pastoralist ownerships [Table 6] agreed on the importance of biodiversity education as an alternative; education is needed to ensure that landowners are able to recognise biodiversity and its importance, appreciate the need to con­serve it and know how to conserve it. Biodiversity education must ensure that a long-term conservation ethic is established amongst present landowners and also in future generations. Aggressive wildlife extension programmes, like the KWS Wildlife Community Wildlife Service has been doing with its rural ap­praisal programmes in the District (KWS 2007), are one way of achieving this. However, it needs to be expanded with follow-ups, tangible results, and cover wider areas. Further, the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), as an organi­sation established to encourage biodiversity conservation via utilisation, should be supported more strongly by KWS because it presents a 'near grass­roots' avenue where KWS needs and objectives can be gradually incorporated to influence landowners. According to LWF (2007), over the last 5 years there has been substantial progress in such partnerships with the development of many ecotourism and cropping opportunities whose revenues directly benefit the community.

In conclusion, as wildlife interactions with people in areas outside protected areas like Laikipia cannot be eliminated, some preventive and management measures must be emphasised. Such measures might include the above land­owner-suggested management alternatives in combination with: (a) problem animal control where problem animals like rogue elephants can fairly be con­tained by elimination or capture as KWS does today (KWS 2007); (b) support for some of the effective traditional methods of wildlife deterrence as found in this study; (c) provision of incentives both direct and indirect that allow communities to value wildlife that might emphasise cash, development pro­jects tied to wildlife conservation and training opportunities for local people; (d) devolution of partial ownership responsibilities to landowners to sustain their support but monitored to prevent abuse and (e) improving access to bio­diversity education materials and opportunities for local landowners.

It is clear from this study that if we have to achieve success in biodiversity conservation in many fronts in the District, multiple opportunities to form partnerships with local landowners who emphasise direct benefits, transpar­ency, trust, patience and indeed some sacrifices might be the only way to go. It is important to remember that many landowners in the District and many other areas in the country have other wildlife issues to worry about including other economic losses attributed to wildlife such as livestock predation, prop­erty damage and wildlife-livestock diseases. Our ability to conserve habitats and their biodiversity will be judged by what we have done in practice than what we have theoretically found possible. As the conservation of wildlife in Kenya will ultimately depend on the goodwill extended to wildlife by private landowners, it is imperative that as more information becomes available from research, it is translated to policies that are sensitive to the needs of people, of wildlife and that of the environment.


This study was supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and Citibank Inc. I thank the Kenya Wildlife Service for providing a vehicle and a driver to help do this research. I am also most grateful to Dr. Nick Georgiadis of the Mpara Research Centre for assistance and logistical support in the course of this study. Finally, my thanks also go to the many landowners in Laikipia District who spent hours with me during our conversations dealing with many wildlife issues.[56]

   References Top

1.Berger, D.J. 1989. Wildlife Extension: A Participatory Approach to Conservation. Ph D disserta­tion. Berkeley: University of California. USA.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Berkes, F. 2004. Rethinking community-based conservation. Conservation Biology 18: 621-630.   Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Chambers, R. 1983. Rural Development: Putting the Last First. Longman, New York.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Child, B. 1991. People's participation in wildlife utilization in Africa. Landscape and Urban Planning 20: 159-162.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Child, G.S. 1996. Wildlife and People: the Zimbabwe Success. Wisdom Foundation, New York.   Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Child, B. 2002. The acceptable face of conservation: Wildlife conservation can bolster human needs rather than conflict with them. Nature 415: 581-582.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Child, B. 2004. (ed.). Parks in Transition: Biodiversity, Rural Development and the Bottom Line. Earthscan, London.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Child, B. 2006. Rights, resources and rural development: Community-based natural resource management in Southern Africa. Journal of Environment and Development 15: 448.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Child, B. and J.H. Peterson, Jr. 1991. Campfire in Rural Development: The Beithridge Experi­ence. Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Harare.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Cumming, D.H.M. 1993. Conservation Issues and Problems in Africa. In: Voices from Africa: Local Perspectives on Conservation (eds. D. Lewis and N. Carter), pp. 23-44. World Wild­life Fund, Washington, DC.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Dudley, N., B. Gujja, B. Jackson, J.P. Jeanrenaud, G. Oviedo, A. Philips, R. Rosabel, S. Stolton and S. Wells. 1999. Challenges for protected areas in the 21st Century. In: Partnerships for protection: new strategies for planning and management for protected areas (eds. S. Stolton and N. Dudley), pp. 3-12. Earthscan Publications, London.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Fabricius, C., E. Koch, H. Magome and S. Turner. 2004 (eds.). Rights, Resources and Rural De­velopment: Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa. Earthscan, London, 288pp.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Hofstede, G. 1983. Culture and Management Development. International Labour Organisation (ILO), New York.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Hulme, D. and M. Murphree. 2001 (eds.). African Wildlife and Livelihoods: The Promise and Performance of Community Conservation. James Currey, Oxford, 320pp.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Infield, M. 2001. Cultural values: A forgotten strategy for building community support for pro­tected areas in Africa. Conservation Biology 15(3): 800-802.  Back to cited text no. 15    
16.International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 1980. The World Conservation Strategy. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Irigia, B.K. 1990. Elephant Crop Raiding Assessment in Ng'arua Division of Laikipia District. Kenya Wildlife Service Report, Nairobi, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 17    
18.Kingoria, G.K. 1996. An Economic Appraisal of Wildlife Conservation as a Landuse in Kenya. Landuse Planning and Coordination Study. Kenya Wildlife Service Report, Nairobi, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 18    
19.Kiss, A. 1990. (ed.). Living with Wildlife: Wildlife Resource Management with Local Participa­tion in Africa. Technical Paper 130. A World Bank Publication, Washington, DC.  Back to cited text no. 19    
20.Kohler, T. 1987. Landuse in Transition. Aspects and Problems of Small-Scale Farming in a New Environment: The Example of Laikipia District. Laikipia Research Programme papers and articles, Laikipia, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 20    
21.Korton, D. 1980. Community development and rural development: A learning process approach. Public Administration Review 40(5): 480-511.  Back to cited text no. 21    
22.Kuriyan, R. 2002. Linking local perceptions of elephants and conservation: Samburu pastoralists in Northern Kenya. Society and Natural Resources 15: 949-957.  Back to cited text no. 22    
23.KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service). 1991. A Policy Framework And Development Programme 1991 - 1996. Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi. Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 23    
24.KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service). 1994. Wildlife-Human Conflict in Kenya. Report of the Five­ Person Review Group, Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi.  Back to cited text no. 24    
25.KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service). 2007. Community Wildlife Service. Available from (Accessed May 01, 2007).  Back to cited text no. 25    
26.Leonard, D. 1993. African Successes. The University of California Press, Berkeley.  Back to cited text no. 26    
27.Leonard, D. and D. R. Marshall. 1982. Institutions of Rural Development for the Poor. Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.  Back to cited text no. 27    
28.Lewis, D. 1993. The Zambian Way to Africanize Conservation. In: Voices from Africa: Local Perspectives on Conservation (eds. D. Lewis and N. Carter), pp. 79-96. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC.  Back to cited text no. 28    
29.Lewis, D. and N. Carter, 1993. Voices from Africa: Local Perspectives on Conservation. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC.  Back to cited text no. 29    
30.LWF (Laikipia Wildlife Forum) 2007. Conservation in Action. Available from (Accessed May 01, 2007).  Back to cited text no. 30    
31.McShane, T. and M. Wells. 2004 (eds.). Getting Biodiversity Projects to Work. Colombia Uni­versity Press, New York.  Back to cited text no. 31    
32.Moris, J. 1981. The transferability of western management tradition to the non-western Public Service Sectors. Philippine Journal of Public Administration 20(4): 401-427.  Back to cited text no. 32    
33.Mulama, M.S. 1990. Assessment of Crop Raiding by Elephant in Laikipia East (Sirrima Loca­tion). Kenya Wildlife Service Report, Nairobi, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 33    
34.Murombedzi, J. 1999. Devolution and stewardship in Zimbabwe's Campfire Programme. Jour­nal of International Development 11: 287-293.  Back to cited text no. 34    
35.Murphree, M.W. 1991. Communities as Institutions of Rural Development. Centre of Applied Social sciences, University of Zimbabwe. Harare, Zimbabwe.  Back to cited text no. 35    
36.Murphree, M.W. 1993. The Role of Institutions in Community-Based Conservation. Workshop on community-based conservation, Washington, DC, 15-22 October.  Back to cited text no. 36    
37.Newmark, W.D. and J.L. Hough. 2000. Conserving wildlife in Africa: Integrated conservation and development projects and beyond. Bioscience 50(7): 585-593.  Back to cited text no. 37    
38.O'Loughlin, E., 1998. Political Reform Reaches S. African Wildlife Park Series. Christian Sci­ence Monitor, Boston, MA.  Back to cited text no. 38    
39.Peterson, A. 1999. Environmental ethics and social construction of nature. Environmental Ethics 21: 339-357.  Back to cited text no. 39    
40.Price, R.M. 1975 . Society and Bureaucracy in Contemporary Ghana. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.  Back to cited text no. 40    
41.Redford, K.H., P. Coppolillo, E.W. Sanderson, G.A.B. Da Fonseca et al. 2003. Mapping the con­servation landscape. Conservation Biology 17(1): 116-131.  Back to cited text no. 41    
42.Rogers, P.J. 2005. Africa, Africanists, and wildlife conservation. Journal African Studies Review 48(1):143-153.  Back to cited text no. 42    
43.Rutagarama, E. and A. Martin. 2006. Partnerships for protected area conservation in Rwanda. The Geographical Journal 172(4): 291-305.  Back to cited text no. 43    
44.Scheaffer, R.L., W. Mendenhall III and L. Off. 1996. Elementary Survey Sampling. 5th edition. Duxbury Press, Belmont, CA.  Back to cited text no. 44    
45.Sottas, B. and D. Yvan. 1995. Toward a New Confinement of Kinship Relations Among Kikuyu Migrants. Laikipia Research Programme papers and articles, Laikipia, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 45    
46.Songorwa, A.N. and T. Buhrs. 2000. Community-based wildlife management in Africa: A criti­cal assessment of the literature. Natural Resources Journal 40(3): 603-644.  Back to cited text no. 46    
47.Thouless, C.R. 1993. Laikipia Elephant Project. Final Report. Kenya Wildlife Service, KWS. Nairobi.  Back to cited text no. 47    
48.Thouless, C.R. 1994 Conflict between humans and elephants on private land in northern Kenya. Oryx 28: 119-127.  Back to cited text no. 48    
49.Uphoff, N.T. and M.J. Esman. 1974. Local Organisation for Rural Development in Asia. Centre for International Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.  Back to cited text no. 49    
50.Wafula, J. 1995. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA): Tigithi/Sirrima Locations, Laikipia Dis­trict. 5-14 September, Kenya Wildlife Service Report, Nairobi, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 50    
51.Western, D. 2001. Taking the broad view of conservation: A response to Adams and Hulme. Oryx 35(3): 201-203.  Back to cited text no. 51    
52.Western, D. 2003. Conservation science in Africa and the role of International Collaboration. Conservation Biology 17(1): 11-19.  Back to cited text no. 52    
53.Wiesmann, U. 1993. Socio-Economic Viewpoints on Highland-Lowland Systems: A Case Study on the North-West Side of Mt. Kenya. Laikipia Research Programme papers and articles, Laikipia, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 53    
54.Wilkinson, L. and L. Engelman. 1996. Tests and measures for two-way tables, pp. 43-70. In: Systat 6.0 for Windows, Statistics. SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL.  Back to cited text no. 54    
55.Woodley, F.W. and P.M. Snyder. 1978. Wildlife Problems in Laikipia District. Wildlife Conservation and Management Department, WCMD, Nairobi, Kenya.  Back to cited text no. 55    
56.Zar, J. H. 2006. Biostatistical Analysis, 5th ed. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Back to cited text no. 56    


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8], [Table 9]


Previous article Next article
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Study Area
    Materials and Me...
    Limitations of t...
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded613    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal