Skip to main content Skip to footer

Can Elephants and Rhinos Coexist With Livestock and Their Owners?

July 14, 2022
The Economist

The vast arid lands of northern Kenya are awash with guns. An ak-47 can be bought for two or three scrawny cows. Pay in cash and it might be as little as 5,000 shillings (a bit more than $40). By one estimate Kenya harbours 750,000 illegal guns, though no one really knows. What is certain is that many are owned by cattle- and camel-herders in the sparsely inhabited north, where guns have replaced the spears that would have been the main weapon just a couple of generations ago. As a result, skirmishes have become far deadlier; a dozen may die in a single raid.

A former policeman who runs a peacemaking project reckons that in the past year more than 100 people, including women and children, have been killed in one northern county alone, Marsabit. In one raid more than 60 perished. “The government has lost control,” says a game ranger who hails from the Turkana people, who compete for grazing and water with the Samburu and others. The proliferation of firearms and the surging death toll have been exacerbated by civil strife across no fewer than four of Kenya’s porous borders(see map).