Elephants break out of Tsavo West National Park, locals go into hiding

More than 500 elephants strayed out of Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, destroying crops and scaring villagers before being herded back onto park property, the Nairobi Star reports.

The elephants were simply grazing and looking for water, park officials say, but that doesn’t reassure villagers who saw their fields trampled. The elephants wandered through five villages and there are reports that they attacked people, although these haven’t been confirmed. Many people hid for days indoors until Kenya’s Problem Animal Control Unit took care of the problem.

Locals are complaining of threats to their livelihood. Many farmers live in poverty and one ruined crop can be disastrous. Park warden Samuel Rukaria told them they should invest in tourism businesses to cash in on the hugely popular park in their back yard. Not bad advice for someone with capital and a knowledge of the tourism business, but it’s unrealistic to expect everyone in the region to be able to do this. This story is just another example of how difficult it is to reconcile the needs of tourists and wildlife to those of local residents. With Africa’s expanding population putting ever more pressure on parks and game reserves, incidents like this will only become more common.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]