Conservancy owners are warning of a severe dent on Kenya’s tourism.

According to the Laikipia Farmers Association, five of the county’s 30 tourism enterprises have closed temporarily.

A Nation team that visited Mugie conservancy came face to face with the destruction.

“We have lost 25 buffaloes, 30 zebras, 10 giraffes and other animals to mysterious killings,” said Mr Solomon Epokor, who is in charge of security.

He knows too well that the elimination of the wildlife means his job is at risk.

At the neighbouring 44,000-acre Suyian ranch, six thatched cottages for tourists were reduced to ashes last week and the ranch closed indefinitely.

There has been speculation concerning the attacks, with some residents claiming the acts were politically motivated and others linking them to land ownership.

DROUGHT ISSUE
A source who sought anonymity told the Nation that some politicians have been inciting locals to drive out the ranchers and take over the land.

“This is a game of exchange of votes for grass and land grabs, the expulsion of rival tribes, ranchers and conservancies,” claimed the source.

But in an interview with the Nation, Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurlkel, who has been accused of being one of those behind the crisis, dismissed the claims, arguing that the situation in Laikipia was as a result of drought.

“It is unfortunate that anyone can link me to the invasions of private land, conservancies and ranches. That is pure political propaganda by my opponents.

"I believe the herders are searching for water and pasture due to the biting drought in their areas of abode,” said the MP.

Security agencies are on the spot, with ranchers and locals stating that they feel little has been done by the authorities.

The government has indicated that it has reinforced security in the region.

But Laikipia Farmers Association chairman Martin Evans says the Anti-Stock Theft Unit deployed to handle the situation has been unable to do so, with reports that some had withdrawn after being overwhelmed.

“We are private investors bringing businesses worth Sh4 billion annually to the Kenyan economy, and paying Sh800 million a year in salaries to our 5,000 employees, and we are sure that the government has no intention of seeing us fall into ruin,” Mr Evans said regarding the growing crisis.

But Laikipia County commissioner Onesmus Kyatha says the government is keen to bring order in the area.

“We have in the past few months successfully evicted more than 63,000 animals from private land. Security agents have also arrested and prosecuted 150 illegal grazers. An MP accused of incitement has also been charged in court,” Mr Kyatha told the Nation on phone.

Rift Valley regional coordinator Wanyama Musiambo, on the other hand, reiterated that a crackdown started by the government to kick out illegal grazers from private land, ranches and conservancies is still in force.

Mr Musiambo has also warned politicians in the area against politicising the issue of pasture for pastoralist communities.

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