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Friday, March 31, 2023

Man who survived hyena attack trampled to death by elephants

A man was trampled to death by an elephant just three years after surviving a hyena attack.

Mzee Musili Musembi, a 72-year-old father of six from the village of Ilikoni in the Kibwezi East constituency of Kenya, was attacked by the elephant on his way home on March 1.

This was not Musembi’s first encounter with wild animals, as he was attacked by a hyena three years earlier while trying to rescue his livestock.

“He confronted a hyena that attacked our livestock in 2020,” his widow, Josepheter Mutheu, told local news site Nation. The hyena had killed one of his cows and when he tried to get rid of the animal he suffered a bruise on his hand.

The elephant attack happened in an area bordering Tsavo East National Park, which is home to huge herds of dusty red elephants, as well as rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, hippo and crocodile, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

After being trampled by the elephant, the man’s body remained at the scene for most of the next day, Nation reported, with residents hanging the Kenyan national flag on his body and preventing police from removing the body in protest at the “lackluster” response to be collected by the KWS on the numerous cases of animal-human conflicts in the region.

“We are fed up with rampant elephant attacks. The government has ignored the plight of farmers in this region,” local resident Muli Mulevu told Nation.

Animal-human conflict occurs when animals are forced into populated areas, resulting in attacks on the humans or their livestock and subsequent retaliatory killings of the animals by angry residents.

This conflict was particularly bad in the Musembi region of Kenya, where wild elephants destroyed crops, grain stores and plastic water tanks in their search for food, despite efforts to keep them out with electric fences.

“KWS should be proactive rather than reactive,” Rose Museo, the Makueni County women’s officer, told Nation.

“They should also build dams in the parks to prevent the animals from sneaking into the farmland.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), between 50 and 120 “problem elephants” are killed by Kenya’s wildlife authorities each year, contributing to the decline in endangered species.

Over the past century, the African elephant population has declined from 5 million to around 470,000, with human-animal conflict being one of the main reasons for their declining numbers.

This conflict with elephants is expected to intensify with the effects of climate change as increasingly arid conditions resulting from droughts deplete water and food sources, causing them to move closer to human settlements. A study recently published in the journal nature climate changefound that climate change exacerbated conflict in 80 percent of human-wildlife conflicts as a result of resource depletion due to changing temperatures and conditions.

“There are many responses to mitigating human-wildlife conflict that depend on the specific context,” said Briana Abrahms, a wildlife biologist and assistant professor at the University of Washington, previously news week.

“In agricultural settings, good fencing and guard dogs can be very effective in reducing carnivore or herbivore losses. We also know that livestock programs, in which governments or community organizations compensate farmers for losses due to carnivores, can be effective in reducing retaliatory killings of carnivores, which is a major contributor to the global decline of many carnivore species.”

Human-wildlife conflicts as a result of climate change are a major cause of population declines for other species as well, including polar bears, snow leopards and tapirs.

Ilikoni residents have called on the KWS to kill the renegade elephant that trampled Musembi. Musembi’s body was eventually removed from the scene, but only after local police fired tear gas and opened fire to disperse the villagers. His body was then taken to the morgue of Kibwezi Hospital.

news week asked KWS for a comment.

Have an animal or natural story you’d like to share with latestpagenews? Do you have a question about human-animal conflict? Let us know at science@latestpagenews.com.

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