At least 400,000 head of cattle have invaded the Tsavo West National Park, depriving wildlife of pasture and water.
Hundreds of herders damaged an electric fence before driving the massive number of cattle into the expansive park, according to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Assistant Director Robert Obrein.
He said the KWS had incurred huge losses after the herdsmen destroyed sections of the fence, which is meant to prevent elephants from leaving the park for nearby farms.
The assistant director said some power transformers had also been damaged by the herdsmen as they attempted to disable the electric fence for their livestock to enter the park.
Mr Obrein told the Daily Nation that the cattle came from northeastern Kenya, Kajiado and Tanzania.
“At the moment, there are about 400,000 head of cattle grazing in Tsavo West. More continue to pour in as the electric fence and transformers were damaged by the herders,” he said over the phone.
“Due to prolonged drought, pastoralists sneaked in their cattle, depriving herbivorous animals in the park of pasture and water,” he said.
Mr Obrein said KWS had intensified patrols in the park to arrest the herders before driving out their animals.
“Campaigns to drive out the massive number of livestock are in top gear. However, our efforts are being hampered by herders who drive more animals into the park,” he said.
“Everywhere you go in the park, you spot cows. The watering points for wildlife have dried up after the cattle consumed everything,” he added.
BLOW TO WILDLIFE SAFARIS
Kenya Association of Tour Operators (Kato) Coast branch Chairperson Monika Solanki said the large number of cattle in Tsavo and Amboseli parks has dealt a blow to wildlife safaris.
She said the cattle had denied international wildlife enthusiasts of the opportunity to enjoy game viewing.
“We have received numerous complaints from German and Dutch tourists, among others, expressing their frustrations after seeing cattle rather than wildlife,” she said.
“They say they are not interested in cattle because they have them in their native countries.”