Laikipia Nature and Conservancy owner Kuki Galmann when he was presented with an award in Germany last year to appreciate her works in conserving the environment. (Photo: James Munyeki/Standard)
Kuki Gallmann was admitted to a Nairobi hospital following the incident Sunday morning.
Four gunmen shot and injured renowned conservationist Kuki Gallmann in an ambush at a ruined lodge inside her expansive ranch in Laikipia.
Ms Gallmann, 73, was wounded in the stomach by armed herders, who have invaded private ranches in the county, as she patrolled her Laikipia Nature Conservancy at around 10am Sunday near a lodge that was recently burnt by arsonists. She was flown to Nairobi for treatment.
The attempt on the life of the Italian-born conservationist and author of I dreamed of Africa at her expansive ranch comes seven weeks after another rancher, Tristan Voorspuy, was shot and killed by the armed herders who have reigned terror on private ranches in Laikipia County for months.
Patrick Lemelon, Gallmann’s driver, who was present at the time of the attack, said they were ambushed at a bushy section of the 100,000-acre conservancy.
Mr Lemelon said they were driving in their Land Cruiser when four gunmen started shooting at them.
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“We were patrolling the farm in the morning when we suddenly heard shots from a nearby bush. Four men attacked us and I realised that Nyawira, as we refer to her, had been shot. She was bleeding from the stomach and I alerted the security personnel,” he told The Standard on phone.
The attack occurred around Muktan Lodge, which was three weeks ago burnt down by the illegal grazers who have invaded the ranch.
“We had visited Muktan Lodge, which the herders burnt down three weeks ago not knowing they were stalking us in the bush,” said Lemelon.
He said the shots were fired as he tried to navigate a corner and only realised that Gallmann, who was seated in the front passenger seat, had been hit.
He said after the incident, he used another route to return home and on the way spotted four other armed men.
“I think they thought she was already dead and that is why they did not shoot at us. I drove very fast to escape the attackers,” he said.
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The driver said he drove for over half an hour to the home as Gallmann’s daughter Sveevah Makena made arrangements to take her to the Nanyuki airbase where she was airlifted to Nairobi.
“Luckily, an aeroplane was available and she was airlifted to Nanyuki before being airlifted to Nairobi,” he said.
She added: “She is conscious and a bullet has lodged in her stomach and all we are asking for is prayers.”
Nyahururu OCPD Ezekiel Chepkwony, who is leading the operation to wipe out illegal grazers who have invaded the area, said the rancher always patrols the area in the morning and that she was attacked when police had left the area.
“Our officers were on the ground and were leaving the area after the night patrol. It was unfortunate that they left the area only for her to be attacked,” he said.
Gallmann was admitted to a Nairobi hospital where she was said to be in a stable condition.
The illegal herders say they invaded the ranches in search of water and pasture. But the ranchers argue that besides the drought, the pastoralists have been incited by people pushing for land redistribution.
Gallmann has been at the forefront in opposing the encroachment by the herders on private ranches.
The Government has since deployed police officers and Kenya Defence Forces to address the problem.
Mr Voorspuy, a dual Kenyan/British national, was shot and killed on March 5, in his 24,000-acre Sosian Ranch.
British High Commissioner Nic Hailey called on the Kenyan government to beef up security in Laikipia County.
“I continue to urge the Kenyan authorities to take all necessary steps urgently to restore law and order,” he said.
It is not only the private ranchers that the armed grazers are targeting. In one week, they have killed three officers in Gallmann’s ranch.