NAROK, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya will move 200 elephants to the world-renowned Maasai Mara game reserve to protect them from escalating conflict with humans in a wheat growing area of the vast Rift Valley, the head of its wildlife service said on Thursday.
Conflicts between humans and wildlife are rising in the east African nation, as increasing food needs and frequent droughts force humans to encroach on protected lands and animals to stray from their reserves in search of water and food.
Julius Kipngetich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, said it would cost 31 million shillings to transport the animals which have been stranded in the Narok area for the last 20 years, their access to the Maasai Mara cut off.
"Narok is one of the top-ranked human-wildlife conflict zones and the move to relocate the elephants will ease the conflict," said Kipngetich.
"For 20 years the elephants have been stranded in this region due to human resettlement and could not reach Mara and hence the decision to relocate them."
Local residents welcomed the move saying the elephants had killed tens of people and destroyed crops worth thousands of shillings.
"The elephants have caused us sleepless nights and we hope that all of them will be moved as we no longer see their need. We have lost our sons after they were killed by the elephants," said Nasale Sholoi, a resident of the area.