“A wild animal that has tasted human blood will not stop killing until it is hunted down and killed” this is what the maasai warriors believe. Is it true, or is just a mere cultural belief. Before you dismiss it, remember that the maasai have coexisted with wild animals for a very long time.
The maasai, who are pastoralists, have coexisted with wild animals peacefully until recently when cases of human wildlife conflict have risen at an alarming rate. In my interactions with the maasai I learned that they lack motive to kill wild animals because first and foremost they rarely eat bushmeat (they believe gazelles have a lot of worms) and secondly they appreciate wild animals as an important component of their ecosystem. So why is there conflict between the two?
I would say that due to increasing human population and urbanisation, man is encroaching into previously wildlife territory. Buildings and roads are being erected in wildlife corridors. People are buying plots of land in national parks fencing them and putting up resorts and lodges. These facilities take up a lot of space and also contribute to noise pollution from generators and entertainment that affects the wild animals.
The effect of all this is that the maasai community and the wildlife are left with a small piece of land to share. As a sequellae to this, the maasai graze their animals in the parks and run a risk of having a lion attack their livestock. In retaliation the maasai kill the lion and because we are too cozy in the city we don’t understand the reasons that led to this maasai killing the lion.
The maasai are frustrated by the government, the fine for killing a wild animal is Ksh. 20 million whereas a person killed by a wild animal is only compensated Ksh. 5 million this is after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act. Moreover, the compensation process is long and cumbersome.
We all know that these heavy fines were put in place so as to reduce the cases of poaching, but are they causing more harm than good?
Another reason frustrating the maasai is that wild animals are given priority over human beings. For example when an elephant is injured vets are flown to the area within hours whereas persons injured by wild animals can take upto days to be attended to. So then the maasai ask, are animals more important than people?
The maasai do confess to sharing resources with wild animals such as water points and pasture, and this they say, has exposed their animals to diseases such as Malignant Catarahl Fever (MCF). MCF is currently the most feared disease by the maasai.
They also blamed the drought for the increase in human wildlife conflict. The drought translates to little pastures and dry river beds. The maasai are therefore forced to take their livestock to graze in the park which makes their animals an easy target for lions and hyenas.