Elephants are losing their living space to avocado farms in Kenya

Elephants in Kimana Sanctuary, part of a crucial wildlife corridor that links the Amboseli National Park to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo protected areas
Elephants in Kimana Sanctuary, photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

The living area of around 2000 elephants and other wildlife animals in Amboseli National Park in Kenya is under threat. Avocado farms are taking their space.

Kenyan agricultural company KiliAvo Fresh, which has farms near Amboseli, is expanding its avocado business because international demand is high. That means using land elephants are now using.

Conservationists say KiliAvo Fresh’s plans will block the crucial Kimana Sanctuary, a wildlife corridor that links Amboseli National Park to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo protected areas.

When elephants want to pass between the areas, they can use the route that Kimana Sanctuary provides. Sometimes the animals will just pass through the sanctuary, and other times they will stay for months.

Kimana Sanctuary is unique because it was the first community-owned conservancy in Kenya when it was established in 1996. But the new plans from KiliAvo will prevent the animals from reaching the sanctuary.

Human-elephant conflicts
“There will be a problem because Amboseli National Park will not have a place where animals can go and graze (Kimana Sanctuary). The sanctuary will die because it depends on animals from Amboseli and if that area is closed, the sanctuary will die,” Samuel Kaanki, chair of the Amboseli Conservancies Association (ALOCA), told Reuters.

ALOCA is an association of 342 Maasai owning 20,500 acres where elephants browse, breed and migrate. Kaanki said the elephants, if blocked by farms like KiliAvo’s or other companies, would seek alternative routes, leading to human-elephant conflicts.

“The way for animals to go to Chyulu or Tsavo will be blocked, and that will be a big problem. It will cause a big human-wildlife conflict because they will try to pass through routes inhabited by people,” Kaanki warned.

The government versus KiliAvo
KiliAvo has already bought land from local landowners and began building an electric fence around it last year. The company said it obtained the land legally then received government approval to begin work after presenting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

But the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) ordered work to stop last September and said it wanted to revoke the EIA. There’s a pending court case between the NEMA and KiliAvo.

The Kenya Wildlife Service told Al Jazeera in December that it was not consulted but would have objected to the project since it does not think the farm is appropriately located.

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