Spirited efforts by the government that saw the restoration of the once desolate Embobut forest, left bare of trees by squatters has seen wild animals troop back.
Embobut forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County was the epicenter of chaos in 2013 as the Ministry of Environment moved in and forcefully evicted squatters, the forest which was on the verge of destruction, is now full of life as the forest has regenerated and the rivers now flow freely.
Kenya Wildlife service (KWS) warden in the area Dominic Kilonzo says this follows the rejuvenation of the forest.
Kilonzo the regeneration of the forest has seen Leopards and hyenas which had taken off from the forest begin to return.
“The return of the animals is both exciting but poses danger to the people living adjacent to the forest,” he said and asked the public to be cautious following the increasing number of hyenas and leopards in the forest.
Kilonzo added that wild animals are dangerous to human beings and domestic animals that are currently using the forest for grazing and as a source of fuel and water.
“We are excited that animals are returning to their natural habitats but this means that the domestic animals were in danger if they continue roaming freely in the forest,” Kilonzo said.
Already farmers who graze their animals near the 65,000-hactare Embobut forest have recently complained of losing livestock to marauding hyenas and leopards.
“A rogue Leopard has killed six of my sheep and two cows at Kabakasi area of Marakwet East two weeks ago ,” said an angry 75-year-old herder Raphael Chemurgor adding that locals followed the rogue leopard to the forest but could not trace it.
Kilonzo said the KWS will commence a census to establish the total number of wild animals in the unfenced forest and later do zoning and introduce other wild animals who were suitable for the habitat.
He said the wild animals’ numbers had decreased significantly due to hunting by hunters-gatherers communities who had settled in the forest for at least 20 years before they were evicted.
The regeneration of the forest has also seen the return of rare species of birds and monkeys whch could soon be an attraction to bird watchers, currently only Kakamega forest in the Western tourism circuit enjoys visits by bird watchers.