Human-wildlife conflicts are common in Kenya because of the high wildlife population and diversity, and because most wildlife is found outside of protected areas. Joseph Mbyati Mukeka has studied human-wildlife conflicts in Kenya as part of his doctoral work at NTNU. At June 7 he will defend his thesis.
When humans and wildlife compete over the same resources, it often causes human-wildlife conflicts. The major human-wildlife conflict types in Kenya are crop raiding, attacks on humans, livestock depredation, and property damage. Such conflicts have negative impacts on the livelihoods of people, who often respond by killing wildlife involved in the conflict. Because of this, human-wildlife conflicts threaten biodiversity conservation and may lead to local extinction of some species.
Two wildlife rich regions with different stories
The Mara Region, including the famous Maasai Mara National reserve, and the Greater Tsavo Ecosystem, contain most of the wildlife in Kenya. The two regions are inhabited by people who have adopted different lifestyles to earn their livelihoods. While the Mara region is predominantly settled by the pastoral Maasai community, different communities that practice agriculture characterize the Greater Tsavo Ecosystem.
Both regions have large herbivores like the African elephant, African buffalo, and Burchell’s zebra, and large carnivores like the lion, leopard and spotted hyena. Nonhuman primates, including baboons and monkeys are also found there.
Mukeka and his team looked at whether there were differences in the relative frequency of human-wildlife conflicts between these two areas over a 15 year period. They found that, interestingly, fewer people felt threatened by wildlife in the Mara than in the Tsavo region, likely because of the historical co-existence and tolerance of wildlife by the Maasai community.
In the Tsavo region, the elephant and nonhuman primates caused most crop raiding conflicts, but with distinct spatial differences within the region. There were more elephant conflicts in areas with higher human, elephant and livestock densities. In the Mara region, the elephant was the leading crop raiding species, preferring the maize and wheat crops, while the nonhuman primates were responsible for most crop tuber destruction. The lion killed most cattle, whereas the leopard and spotted hyena killed sheep and goats.
Compensations for losses give insights
One method of ameliorating such human-wildlife conflicts is compensating losses. Mukeka and his colleagues analysed compensation payments by the government of Kenya between 2007 and 2016. They found that snakes were the leading cause of human deaths and injuries in dry regions of Kenya. Human-wildlife conflicts increased with increase in the percentage area under protection in each country. They also found that more males than females and more adults and children suffered from human-wildlife conflict incidents.
Prevention and mitigation of human-wildlife conflicts
Mukeka suggests addressing seasonality in human-wildlife conflicts by adopting crops that mature at different times and that are less palatable where the risk of crop raiding is high. High livestock depredation can be minimized through better husbandry practices. Mukeka points out that people living with wildlife also need to benefit more from conservation, and that the national compensation scheme for human-wildlife losses requires adequate funding to cater for the increasing human-wildlife cases.
Defence of thesis
Public trial lecture:
Time: 07.06.2019, 10.15
Place: EU2-145, RFB, NTNU Gløshaugen
Prescribed subject: Dynamic trends of Human-Wildlife Conflicts (HWC) on a global scale: past, present and future
Public defense of the thesis:
Time: 07.06.2019, 13.15
Place: EU2-145, RFB, NTNU Gløshaugen
The Faculty of Natural Sciences has appointed the following Assessment Committee to assess the thesis:
Dr. Alex Awiti
East African Institute, Aga Khan University, Kenya
Dr. Shyamala Ratnayeke
Department of Biological Sciences, Sunway University, Malaysia
Professor Ole Kristian Berg
Department of Biology, NTNU
Professor Ole Kristian Berg has been appointed Administrator of the Committee. The Committee recommends that the thesis is worthy of being publicly defended for the PhD degree.
The doctoral work has been carried out at the Department of Biology, where Professor Eivin Røskaft has been the candidate’s supervisor. Senior Statistician Joseph O. Ogutu and Ecologist Erustus Kanga has been the candidate’s co-supervisor.