Assesing the effectiveness of the lower Imenti forest reserve electric fence in mitigating human-wildlife conflict
Kaugiria, Rose M.
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Human-Wildlife Conflicts (HWC) in Meru central district continues to be a pressing challenge with potentially heavy negative effects on community livelihoods. To date, different traditional and conventional strategies have evolved in the area to mitigate the conflicts, with varying degree of success. The latest mitigation strategy under implementation is use of an electric fence around Imenti forest reserve. The fence was an initiative of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), local community and biodiversity conservation programmes in 2001. However, the effectiveness of this fence in mitigating conflict since its completion has never been evaluated.This study, therefore, assessed the effectiveness of the fence in deterring elephants from invading farms, reducing human and elephant deaths and injuries. It also sought to examine the implications of the fence on forest resource use and management in the area. The study targeted the total numbers of households adjacent to the electric fence within a band of 1 km in four sub-locations selected from the conflict prone divisions of Mirigamieru west and Mirigamieru east. Simple random sampling method was used to select 125 households for questionnaire survey. Purposive sampling was used to select key in informants for interview and individuals for case studies. The field research employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Primary data was collected using questionnaire surveys, participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) methods and case studies. Secondary data was obtained from previous research such as the internet, Assessment reports, and KWS Occurrence Book (OB). Data analysis involved use of descriptive statistics mainly frequency distributions, means and percentages and presented in form of pie charts and graphs. Paired sample t- test was used to test significant differences between selected variables before and after fence construction. The respondents' attitudes and perceptions were measured using a 5-point likert scale. Qualitative data from the PRA tools were put under themes and logical conclusion made, they were then used to compliment quantitative data. According to the results, 76% of the community members noted that the electric fence has effectively resolved HWC in the area. Up to 96% felt that the number of elephant and human deaths and injuries had reduced after construction of the fence. Additionally, 90% of the respondents noted that fanning had intensified after the fence while 66% reported that the relationship between KWS and the local community had improved greatly, thus enhancing both wildlife and forest conservation measures. The major limitation of the fence according to 68% of the respondents was basically related to poor maintenance, which led to elephant's breakages into farmlands. Analysis of secondary data showed that crop raiding incidences in the area had reduced significantly after the fence construction (t= 7.3, p=0.05, n=5). The number of human deaths due to HWC had also decreased significantly (t--6.8, p=fl.05, n=4). Though cases of human injuries by elephants had also reduced, this was not significantly different (t=2.78, p=0.05, n=4). Cases of elephant's deaths due to illegal activities had also reduced though not significantly different when compared to number of cases before the fence construction (t=5.4, p=0.05, n=4). Elephant injuries had also reduced but not significantly (t=5.4, p=0.05, n=4). The number of illegal cases of forest resource use had significantly reduced (t=3, p=0.05, n=4) hence improving forest biodiversity and conservation. To maximise on the benefits of the electric fence, pro-active measures, both policy and otherwise, should focus on ensuring proper maintenance of the fence and encouragement of community participation in wildlife and forest resource management.