Amboseli’s People & Wildlife: Innocent Bystanders Falling Prey to Local Conflicts

In recent weeks, human-wildlife conflict in Kenya has grown more severe.  This week, Maasai warriors rampaged across the Amboseli ecosystem, following an unsuccessful interaction between tribal leaders and the Kenya Wildlife Service. 


Not far behind the recent killings near Nairobi National Park and elsewhere in the Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya is again plagued by back-to-back occurrences of acute human persecution, this time with more wildlife falling as unwitting surrogates to mortal human combat over the past week.


 Nick Brandt, of Big Life Foundation, has posted the two briefings in the past 36 hours.  They can be found here along with regular updates:!/biglifefoundation


Last week, a Maasai child was tragically killed by a buffalo. 


“One officer from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) unfortunately blamed the killing on the Maasai, not on the buffalo,” Brandt reports online.   “All hell broke loose. 200 warriors went on a rampage to spear any elephants and buffalo they could find. One buffalo was killed and one elephant speared in the process, before the warriors were temporarily talked down, the KWS officer moved elsewhere, and a provisional agreement made that the Director of KWS would meet to discuss the communities’ grievances (this) week.”


Maasai leaders took great offense at what they perceive as having been “snubbed” by the Director of KWS at this week’s meeting, who instead sent lower-ranking deputies.


“The Maasai were furious and over 100 moran (warriors) went on the rampage, killing any animal they came across outside the park on community land….where many of Amboseli’s elephants go every night,” notes Mara-based Big Cats Initiative (BCI) grantee Anne Kent Taylor.  “One of the bulls, called Ezra, was well known – 46 years old and a gentle soul.  …he was hit many times by spears, including one in his head – and died sometime later in agony.  (Another) was killed whilst sleeping under a tree and the carnage went on…”

EZRA, a well-known 46 year old male elephant was speared repeatedly, including in the head, following negotiation conflicts between Maasai and the Kenya Wildlife Service. Ezra eventually succumbed to his wounds. Photo by Nick Brandt


Nick Brandt reports that fortunately, “community and council leaders announced that there is to be no more killing.”  While this is certainly a relief, “some warriors are still out hunting, their blood up.  The meeting between the KWS director and community leaders is scheduled for August 6.”  In the meantime, however, the current crisis is far from over.


“Our rangers have still not been given the go ahead to go back out and get back to work protecting the wildlife, says Brandt.   “The ceasefire remains tentative, and poachers could come in now and take advantage of the situation if we cannot get our rangers (120) back into the field now.


Only our Tanzanian rangers monitoring the situation in that side of the border are out.”  For now, Amboseli’s wildlife currently remain relatively exposed and underproteced in the midst of ongoing crisis. 


The connected nature of human and wildlife populations and the intrinsic linkages between the well-being and support of both remains evident.  If we are to consider ourselves a part of the interdisciplinary global collective of conservationists, humanitarians, politicians, managers, researchers, storytellers, advocates, and local citizens, our way forward must be infused with a theme of equality, respect, and partnership.  BCI grantee Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld reflects that these events “really reinforce the importance of comprehensive approaches to conservation that work to strengthen community rights and participation in the management of natural resources and the derivation of benefits from them.”




Meet the Author
While his own research focuses on learning about and protecting the fossa, Madagascar's elusive top predator, Luke Dollar has also devoted himself to promoting smart and effective conservation throughout the world. As a part of this larger dedication, he also heads up National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. Learn More About Luke Dollar and His Work