A journalist for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper has been roundly criticised by elephant expert Daphne Sheldrick for proposing that Kenya’s starving should be provided with protein by culling the country’s excess buffalo and elephants.
Wycliffe Muga, who is known for his prohunting articles, suggested that sport hunters should be allowed into Kenya’s game parks to shoot “the 3,000 surplus buffaloes in the Lake Nakuru National Park and the 400 surplus elephants in Kwale’s Shimba Hills National Park.”
In an article published on January 14, Muga amended his stand on wholesale hunting, saying that a member of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project had sensitised him to the psychological and social behaviour of elephants. He concluded, “It would seem that killing an elephant is a different thing from killing a buffalo. In one case, you might as well be slaughtering a cow; in another, you would be killing an animal which shares with you many of the characteristics that define your humanity.”
However, he also pointed out that some human-elephant conflicts exist in Kenya, and “rogue elephants continue their reign of terror beyond the game parks.” In reply, Sheldrick says, “The reason for starvation and drought is glaringly obvious, as is the solution.” She blames too many cattle, sheep and goats and illegal logging for environmental damage, along with corrupt officials with short-term goals in mind.
She recommends that surplus livestock be purchased and tinned for use in drought years “before it becomes walking skeletons dying by the wayside”, and a tax on cattle to encourage people to have fewer, better specimens.
Sheldrick reminded Muga of the problem of diseases jumping between animals and humans through the bushmeat trade, and commented, “To feed the starving masses on the country’s diminishing wildlife is so short-sighted that it is beyond comprehension, besides risking yet another human pandemic.”