In December 2019, the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), released the Human Wildlife Compensation report, spanning the period 2014-2017. The findings, detailed the state of filed cases and financials, with a roadmap on outstanding claims.
Of the 13,125 compensation claims reviewed for the period, 452 human deaths; 4,555 human injuries; 5,073-crop damages; 3,012-livestock predation and 33 property destruction cases were reported. While no annual growth trends for each class were shown, this could help inform KWS’s case reduction mitigation strategies.
According to the Wildlife Compensation and Management Act 2013, loss of life, bodily harm, damage to property, crops and livestock attacks by wildlife ought to be compensated. However, the relevant body has been weighed down by ever rising claims. Pending estimates cited in a local daily a few months ago, stood at about 2.2 billion.
From a health system funder’s perspective, wildlife is similar to other natural extractive resources. Equivalents in the extractives’ industry are titanium, coal, lime and gold mining industries, that fund community health programs.
With tourism affected by the Covid-19 imposed global travel restriction, earnings from parks and wildlife areas will certainly dent this year’s wildlife supported community health projects. These shortfalls in revenues may further cut injury compensations by in financial year 2020/21.
The two scenarios, call to question modalities of sharing wildlife exploitation revenues with communities prone to human-wildlife conflicts. The good news is that the reopening of tourism circuits after a hiatus, will see some revenues trickle in to wildlife organisations.
That said sector players needs strategies to mitigate against a future rise of claim incidences.
From a public health perspective, prevention of human fatalities and injury is the first and cheaper option to compensations. Here, different approaches have delivered varying successes. They include community engagements, wildlife rangers’ employment, social services investments as well as preventative infrastructure.
The controversial issue of wildlife movement restricting fences comes into play, from the last option above. An ecosystem hierarchical overview, stratifying the needs and rights of wildlife, communities and conservators should inform what comes top. So far, as it stands, the legal right to compensation from a struggling KWS, means case prevention should take precedence.
It so happens also that communities bordering wildlife habitations are also amongst the poorest, often lacking medical insurance, with wildlife injuries exposing their economic frailties. This demands need to rethink modalities of sharing extractive wildlife resources investments in healthcare with communities bordering such habitations.
The optimum and equitable approach should both lower compensation claims, while fostering stronger community partnerships. This is why wildlife stakeholders should allocate a fraction of revenues towards community National Hospital Insurance Fund schemes.
In addition, borrowing and expanding success stories in cost-reduction of individuals fencing their own property, as well as sustained long-term public engagements to protect larger areas are also good preventative routes. The Aberdare Forest and Nairobi National Parks being such visible stories.