Current Unrest and Spearing of Elepants, Lions, and Buffalo In Amboseli (Big Life Foundation)

Andy Hogg / Published July 30, 2012 11:25 AM

Ezra with Broken Spear in Head, Amboseli, July 18 2012
(see other story in LATEST NEWS)


by Nick Brandt
July 18 2012

There have been a lot of reports, mainly inaccurate, circulating regarding the crisis that exploded in Amboseli this week . Here is a brief status, as of 11am on Wednesday morning. The situation is constantly evolving so this report will be updated as and when appropriate :

Last week, a Maasai boy was tragically killed by a buffalo in the Amboseli ecosystem. One officer from Kenya Wildlife Service unfortunately blamed the killing on the Maasai, not on the buffalo. All hell broke loose. 200 warriors went on a rampage to spear any elephants and buffalo they could find. One buffalo was killed and one elephant speared in the process, before the warriors were temporarily talked down, the KWS officer moved elsewhere, and a provisional agreement made that the Director of KWS would meet to discuss the communities' grievances the following week.

The meeting happened on Monday, but a Community Warden and two board members went in place of the Director of KWS. The Maasai community were furious, felt they were disrespected and the meeting broke up. As a result, all communication broke down between KWS and the Maasai communities around Amboseli.

Most of the tension relates to the fact that the Maasai only receive a tiny proportion of the revenue from Amboseli National Park. The park is only 300,000 acres in a 2m. acre + ecosystem, and most of the animals inhabit or move in and out of the unprotected areas where the Maasai live. Each night, three-quarters of Amboseli's elephant population will typically be outside the park. So with an ever-increasing population encircling the park, they thus face the consequences of raided crops, livestock killed by predators etc. But the uprising is basically related to politics and revenue, with the County Council of the area wanting a much greater percentage of park revenue both for itself and for the local communities.

So starting at 6am yesterday, hundreds of warriors in the villages surrounding Amboseli National Park were instructed to go and spear ALL ELEPHANTS, LION AND BUFFALO that they could find, to make their point known. They would not kill animals inside the park.

Frustratingly, all Big Life and other community rangers around Amboseli in Kenya were instructed to stand down by the community leaders, as they would not be safe once the warriors went on their rampage, even though the communities' problem is all related to KWS, not Big Life or other NGO's working to protect the ecosystem and its animals.

Yesterday was brutal. As the warriors spread across the ecosystem hunting down elephant herds as they made their daily morning trek towards the park, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers were completely outnumbered, and much of the time could only stand by and watch as the warriors swarmed around the elephants hurling spears at them. (in Elerai, for example, there were an estimated 150 warriors all targeting one herd of elephants).

We don't have confirmed figures yet, but we have unconfirmed reports of at least ten elephants speared, one of Amboseli's oldest bulls badly wounded, another with ten spears in him, another beautiful 35 year old bull who was speared to death while sleeping under a tree in the lead-up to this situation. Also up to ten buffalo killed, and a lion.

Throughout the day, Richard Bonham, Big Life's Director of Operations, flew over the area, monitoring the situation and alerting where necessary, while spears were thrown at his plane.

Big Life's platoon commander in Tanzania, John Maghembe, marshalled several Big Life units up to the border, to protect elephant herds that were fleeing over into Tanzania for safety from marauding warriors. They also called in KINAPA and TANAPA rangers for further reinforcement and support.

Today, Wednesday, so far, the situation is much better. KWS has called in major reinforcements from adjoining Tsavo, Elite Special Unit teams, and more aerial support. There is now a strong, coordinated response to the situation. At the same time, the community leaders have ordered the killing to cease. There are still groups of warriors out there in hunting parties, but so far, as far as we know, they have been apprehended prior to making any kills.

However, this 'ceasefire' is temporary. It will only stand until if and when an agreement can be reached between KWS and the local communities and county council. We hope the situation can be resolved through dialogue before yet more innocent animals are killed.


Ian Salisbury

Commented July 30, 2012 12:26 PM
Thanks for highlighting this Andy....Yet another example of what happens when human populations and wildlife come into conflict. Unfortunately when incidents happen it is easier to lay the blame on the animals rather than address the underlying problem of allowing humans and animals to share the same space. Every week we see news items that clearly indicate how threatened our wild places have doesn't seem to matter whether it is Africa or the North Pole.

Clay Knight

Commented July 30, 2012 02:32 PM
Well commented Ian.


Commented July 30, 2012 02:39 PM
Not good!

Noel Smith

Commented July 30, 2012 02:48 PM
Breaks my heart. In the long run its always the animals that lose out the most.

Andy Hogg

Commented July 30, 2012 02:49 PM
Its a huge tragedy - happening all over Africa and far to often.

Harshit Singh

Commented July 30, 2012 04:16 PM
@Andy- Thanks for bringing that matter to light @Ian - Totally agreed to that

Imogen Hills

Commented July 31, 2012 02:50 PM
In Niassa here we have about 40,000 people living in the reserve, 400 of those have jobs so you can imagine what the rest are doing. It doesn't help that the Mozambiquen law will lock you up for killing someone elses chicken but for killing an elephant you walk away with a fine under $100. It is a never ending battle here between man and animal. I don't know the answers but something has to be done. We've lost 10 elephants that we know of this month just the other side of the river from me. Tragic.

Grant Cumings

Commented July 31, 2012 04:33 PM
Africa's wildlife and those who seek to defend it are under siege from the gross stupidity, greed and bloody mindedness of those who recklessly plunder it. Some of the Authorities who mismanage and misappropriate revenues, and some of the "people" who lay claim to ownership of the land and wildlife. As in this article whereby the KWS seems to be not sharing the revenues as should be, and the Masaai have responded unacceptably. It seems a lesson is being learned though - man and wildlife cannot live together where both compete for the same resource and instead surely the way forward is to try ensure that sufficient land be set aside for both. Africa is generally not densely populated, not with people and no longer with wildlife, so perhaps there is still time to improve the apportioning of lands.

Alex Antrobus

Commented August 02, 2012 07:11 PM
I think the problem is, albeit in fit of nonsensical mob madness, that the problem Masaai felt without reason to see the wildlife as their primary resource. Would they be competing over "the same" resources if wildlife was truly made more valuable for them. I think this boiling over is indicative of the two failures in the pot which is the co-living model: uncontrolled population growth and unfair financial distribution of profits generated. I also think attention must be drawn to KWS' failed promise to send their head to attend to the meeting. Even if the community's reaction was completely unreasonable, it is terribly unprofessional to rub salt in such a wound.

Grant Cumings

Commented August 07, 2012 04:05 PM
KWS and those rampant individuals seemingly have a lot to answer for. No doubt the Masaai, a proud, independent community have over the years had their lands and traditions severely impinged upon - aside from the recent tragic loss of a boy which seems to have been the catalyst for recent events. A long term solution for them, and the wildlife that they are said to coexist with, should have been made and implemented long ago and so surely must be a matter of priority now. As I am not familiar with tourism around Amboseli I do not feel informed enough to comment further but I can't help but wonder whether some responsible safari concessionaires could help resolve the situation which is clearly in crisis, and whereby the concessionaires might be able to find a more viable way of ensuring the Masaai get more economic benefit. There are some very successful models in Botswana to consider, where safari operators pay significant monies and achieve huge conservation successes. A win win for people and wildlife.


Commented October 18, 2012 09:45 PM
When will the Kws/Kenyan government ever learn? Who actually runs Amboseli now? And where dose the revenue go, or into who's pocket?
For as long as i can remember, different bodies have said they will make sure the Masai do not lose out, but time & time again they do, and every time it is the animals who suffer. Why are people so stupid that it has to come to this before anyone acts. Sadly it would seem this is the only way the Masai can get the people who, allegedly, run the park to take notice of them.

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Andy Hogg
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