Farming of crocodiles has been proposed as a means of saving the endangered species in Kenya’s Seven Folk dams in Mbeere where residents live in fear of the killer reptiles.
The Seven Folk dams provide the bulk of Kenya’s electricity but residents say they are becoming a threat to their lives as the harbour the wild animals.
However, Kenya Wildlife Service is calling on residents to start seeing the reptiles as a source of income.
The residents are being encouraged to establish private game sanctuaries to help reduce wildlife poaching and conserve endangered species.
“Crocodiles do not have a hard rule on maintenance and they can survive harsh conditions. If farmers realised that they can generate more income through the reptiles then they might change their perspective on them,” said warden Julius Cheptei.
This, he said, makes their farming favourable especially at this time when the weather patterns are unpredictable.
“Wildlife farming has the potential to enhance the livelihoods of poor farmers,” said Mr Cheptei.
There is a need to balance between the environment, the people and development economics, said KWS deputy director in charge of wildlife and community conservation, Joachim Kagiri.
More than 500 farmers in Kenya are said to be operating wildlife farms as a source of income and food. The farmers can also export crocodile skin to lucrative markets like Europe where there used to make luxury products like handbags and belts.
Commercial crocodile farming has been successful in countries like Australia, Thailand and Malaysia. However, senior warden in charge of wildlife utilisation in the mountain conservation area Paul Opiyo says that most people do not know the benefits of crocodile farming.
He says that it will soon be a source of livelihood to thousands of residents while urging them to venture into the trade. The KWS gives permits to farmers wishing to venture into the trade and called on local farmers to try it out.
According to Washington Otip, a crocodile attendant at the Galaxy Crocodile farm in Kirinyaga County, the farmers collect eggs from Tana River before taking them to the hatcheries.
The farmers however need to be licensed by the KWS and the wardens say that egg collection in itself would offer employment to hundreds of idle youths.