Animal advocates work to bring peace to Kenya

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2008:

NAIROBI–“The situation in Kenya is calm, Youth for
Conservation president Steve Itela told ANIMAL PEOPLE on January 28,
2008, “especially in areas where violence was high such as Kibera
and Mathare, but tension continues with ethnic groups still fighting
in Nakuru, Naivasha, and Nyahururu. We are hopeful that violence
will not spread to other areas. I have not heard gun shots for two
weeks now.”
The worst of the post-election mayhem was over, but the
struggle for the Kenyan animal protection community was just
beginning. From trying to stay alive themselves, Kenyan animal
advocates transitioned rapidly to trying to help keep lost,
abandoned, injured, and frightened animals from suffering further
as result of the national plunge into chaos after the disputed
outcome of the December 27, 2007 voting.

“We have been busy in collaboration with the Department of
Veterinary Services and the Kenya SPCA,” reported African Network
for Animal Welfare founder Josphat Ngonyo, “implementing emergency
response to help animals in the clash-torn areas in the Rift Valley.
If we can vaccinate the animals against rabies and neuter them to
control their population, then the government will not bait and kill
them using strychnine.
“If we can implement our proposal to control rabies and dog
and cat population through anti-rabies vaccination and spay/ neuter
in a pilot area of Nairobi and environs,” Ngonyo continued,
describing a project closer to home, “then the government will stop
the baiting completely, and allow us to replicate this program in
other parts of the country.
“We hope to go back to the violence affected areas to
vaccinate against rabies and sterilize dogs and cats for six days
beginning on March 4,” Ngonyo added. “We are targeting eight camps
for internally displaced persons. Each camp has an estimated 80 to
100 animals to sterilize. We are keeping our fingers crossed that
we can raise the funds to do it. The government is offering to
donate veterinarians.”
The Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya SPCA, and
Department of Veterinary Services veterinarians Dr. David Korir and
Dr. Florence Mukoma treated 160 dogs, 10 cats, and numerous
donkeys, cows, sheep, and goats at five camps for internally
displaced persons from February 21 through February 24.
“Large numbers of people in the camps wanted us to kill all
the dogs, arguing that they were a burden due to the food shortage.
We had to conduct humane education to make them understand that
animals too have a right to life, and are important to human
beings,” Ngonyo recounted. “We tried unsuccessfully to save a
donkey who had been knocked down by a car and suffered severe
“Many dogs and donkeys were abandoned after the skirmishes,” Ngonyo
said. “This has led to injuries both to the animals and humans.
Communities who were not evicted from their homes complained of stray
dogs killing their sheep. This led to the mass killing of dogs in
one area.
“Animal health services in the affected districts have been
seriously hampered,” Ngonyo continued. “Most of the personnel who
deliver livestock health services and artificial insemination in the
affected districts have been displaced,” and all the stores selling
animal care products were looted. Many were then burned down.
Cattle theft among rival tribes is both traditional and a
frequent source of violence in some rural parts of Kenya. Ngonyo
noted that the collapse of government security “has resulted in
rampant livestock theft even in the displaced persons camps.”
Also, Ngonyo observed an “upsurge of tick borne disease due
to lack of access to dipping facilities,” coupled with refugees
lacking “financial resources to acquire acaricides or even access to
stores with acaricides. There is an urgent need for internally
displaced persons to be provided with drugs, vaccines and
acaricides,” Ngonyo emphasized. “Direct support to the farmers with
food and drugs will greatly assist them to maintain their animals as
they await resettlement.”
Even before calm fully returned to Kenya, Youth for
Conservation helped to mobilize a February 3 animal census at Nairobi
National Park, and an elephant count at Tsavo National Park,
reported MaryAnne Wambua, editor of the YfC newsletter Ngwesi.
“Despite the current political stalemate,” Wambua told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “YfC is carrying out our mandate to ensure that our
wildlife are preserved. During such times of crisis and uncertainty,
biodiversity has taken a back seat in our nation’s order of
priorities, but with the youth rallying behind us, we will ensure
that nothing is taken for granted.”

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