Kenya: The biting baboons of Nakuru

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Baboon watching over the savanna, Amboseli National Park of Kenya

In Nakuru which Approximately lies 160 km from Kenya capital city Nairobi, the primates and residentsof Lake view estate engage daily on a war of the might.

By Daniel Kipchumba

NAKURU – It’s a war that baboons and human have long struggled to end. Yet, no end in sight for the raging war and the finale being the two terrorizing each other  in an ensuing hostility for territory and food.

In Nakuru county, approximately 160 km from Kenya capital city Nairobi, the primates and residentsof Lake view estate engage daily on a war of the might. The nice vicinity, bordering the vast lake Nakuru, one of the leading tourism destinations in the world, hides a deep resentment between the two mammals. The nice panoramic view hides deeply the raging war between the irate residents and the apes who have found their way into their homes.

Despite the presence of a huge electric fence around the park and a 24 hour armed guards, the baboons have a way of sneaking out to rein terror against their neighbors.

Residents recounted gory details of attacks from the animals, leaving them with scathing wounds and horrific memories. Worse still, they remain exposed to the threat of contracting rabies from the primates.

On late November 2017, a ten years-old VictoryKaranja, found himself in a serious battle with one of the beasts on his way back from a shop to purchaseairtime.He struggled trying to break free, but the ferocious animal was determined to pin him down.

It was a struggle that ended up a few minutes later, but left him with scathing bite wounds on the leg, so deep that the wound was gorging out blood by the time his mother, Ms Wangui, a casual laborer, learnt about her son’s incident from her daughter, who called her crying.

Karanja says the baboon was targeting to bite his knee but pushed it to the wall, and ran away, not knowing that it had bit him.

“The neighbors are the ones who  realized that I was bitten after seeing blood flowing down on my leg, so they gave me some pain killers’’, he  narrates.

The neighbours rushed the boy to Langalanga sub-county hospital for treatment, where the wound was cleaned, dressed with anti-rabies injections were administered. His apprehensive mother followed later to the hospital where she fainted upon seeing the wound on her son’s leg.

She reported the case to Bondeni police station in a desperate attempt to draw the local government’s attention to the threats of the predatory animals. That was the only thing she could do.

“I was informed that  baboon attacks are not compensated ,only attacks from the big five are compensated, I asked them what if the baboon killed him, they told me that would be my problem’’ she quips.

There have been at least six more cases of the same nature after her sons attack, says Wangui, a problem which still terrorizes the poor boy.

“He fears sleeping in darkness claiming, the baboon might come back. He has vivid nightmares about baboons and has to be accompanied to the toilet even during the day. He remains worried and traumatized and needs urgent counseling but I can’t  do anything about it’’. Wangui narrates.

Her son got five anti tetanus jabs and anti rabies dose at a cost of $80 each.

Sarah Kimania, a Human Rights Defender, pointed out that there has been a lot of attacks from baboons and wild dogs from the park targeting women and children. She added that the residents have lodged numerous complaints about incidents of attacks by baboons and wild dogs from the park and women and children have been particularly vulnerable

However, Ms. Kimani wants a review of the KWS compensation law  forcing the organization to cater for at least  half of the bill incurred after the attacks.

Joab Tsuma, a community leader, says  although snakes and baboon bites are rampant in the area, he cited that hunger during dry season as the main cause driving them from the park to the residential areas to look for food.

“Only three cases have been reported to us, one of the victim was able to foot the medical bill, but the other two couldnt ’’. he says.

Meanwhile, as the battle between residents and baboons continue unabated, some of the Landlords in the area have resorted to hiring  youth who use handheld catapults to chase away the baboons. The residents in the area have moved to safer estates.

Drought and wildlife habitat invasion have been cited as the major cause of human wildlife conflicts around the country.

According to the world Health Organization Monkey bites account for 2–21% of animal bite injuries in the world. It recommends the rabies post-exposure treatment depending on the animal vaccination status and immediate administering of the tetanus vaccine.

Even with the high risk, residents have expressed concern that County Government did not have enough anti rabies vaccine, exposing them to the risk of a disastrous outbreak every time one is bitten by the primates.

Many have fled the area after the animals became violent, often raiding their kitchens in search for food. Landlords in turn have been forced to hire youth with catapults to chase away the annoying animals in an attempt to keep their customerssatisfied.

Wildlife Conservation and Management (Compensation Scheme) Regulations, 2015

calls for the establishment of  a County Wildlife Conservation and CompensationCommittee that will oversee the reimbursement of victims of human – wildlife conflict.

However, it mandates the committee to submit any claim of attack to the cabinet secretary within thirty days, after verifying the claim from the victim.

The claimant should produce an Identity Card or, if a minor birth certificate in any of the incidents. Among other documents required are death certificate, P3 Form (Medical report of the person injured) and a filled claim form available in their website.

According to the regulation, they should also attach a report from an Assessor appointed by the Service and , evidence of ownership of land where loss or damage to crop, livestock or property occurred.

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