MPs plan law change to cut snake bites from compensation list as claims rise to Sh4.5bn

Taxpayers will not compensate individuals hurt or killed from snake bites if a proposed law is adopted as the state seeks to curb rising claims that now stand at Sh4.5 billion.

The National Assembly committee on Environment and Natural Resources has started amending the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 to remove them from the list of compensation.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has blamed snake bites for the rising claims in period that has seen an escalation of conflict between the reptiles and humans.

“The committee has stated amending the Wildlife Conservation Management Act, 2013 and has proposed to remove snake bites from the list of compensation,” the Natural Resources committee said in submissions to the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BACC) in preparations of next year’s budget.

“This will greatly reduce the number of compensation claims. Compensation for deaths and injuries to snake bites alone are unsustainable.”

Mid this year, the team called for lowering of the payment rates to make them affordable to the KWS.

The committee reckons that the 2013 decision to amend the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act had left the taxpayer with a Sh4.83 billion bill needed to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict.

The team sought to amend the Act to remove a provision that set a minimum Sh5 million compensation for every life lost.

Compensation for human death, injury or damage to property has been significantly increased under the current law that came into force on January 10, 2014.

Section 25 of the Act stipulates that Sh5 million will be paid for human death, Sh3 million for injury with permanent disability and up to Sh2 million for other injuries depending on their extent.

Previously, compensation for deaths stood at Sh200,000 those with injuries were paid Sh50,000.

“The claimants list for death and injury alone from January 10, 2014 is over 200 people. We have not computed claims for destruction of crops since we have not sat to decide on the figures arising from lodged claims,” said Mr Michael Kipkeu, senior assistant director community wildlife service at the KWS, in an earlier interview.

Most claims

Mr Kipkeu said most claims arise from death as a result of snake bites.
“It is our proposal if we remove claims for snake bites and destruction of crops, we will comfortably pay the Sh5 million for any death arising from wildlife conflict,” he said.

Snake bites, leading to limb amputations and even death, have dramatically gone up in the past decade from 20 reported cases in 2003 to nearly 500 last year.

Experts attribute the jump to the warming climate, which has enabled snakes to move to previously cooler habitats, clearing of forests and the worsening droughts that force the reptiles to go into people’s houses to look for water.

The most affected areas are either semi-arid or those experiencing prolonged periods of dry spells.

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