Bush-run with Elephants: Beware!
07 Feb 2007 - Daily Nation by Pamela Chepkemai
When Mrs Wendy Susan Martin learnt that she would be leaving Kenya after her husband’s tour of duty, she decided to treat herself and her three children to a last holiday in the Ill Ngwesi group ranch in Isiolo.
She had been in Kenya for four years where her husband, Mr Steve Martin, worked for the British High Commission. Mrs Martin would miss the visits to various game lodges and wildlife parks which she had come to enjoy.
The journey to Ill Ngwesi started a month before she and her husband were to leave for the UK. Besides Mrs Martin and her family, her friends also came along. The six adults and 10 children travelled in three Land Rovers, their eyes feasting on the landscape.
The next morning, she and her friends decided to take a bush run around the 22,000-acre ranch. However, after covering some distance, an elephant appeared from the bushes ahead of them and everyone ran for cover in different directions.
Mrs Martin’s attempts to seek refuge behind a bush attracted the wrath of the elephant which went for her and attacked her with its tusks several times as it smashed her on the ground.
“The elephant caught up with me and I remember being dragged for a considerable distance through the bush,” recalled Mrs Martin after the harrowing experience.
She still remembers the stabs of pain as the elephant struck her with its tusks again and again.
“I remember feeling the full weight of the elephant on me,” she said. As she lay motionless on the ground, the elephant went away perhaps thinking she was dead.
Later, she was airlifted to Nairobi and flown out of the country for further treatment. In all, she lost a kidney, her pelvis was shattered and she had to undergo 13 major operations to restore her health.
Pain and suffering
Last week, Mrs Martin was back in Kenya, but not to visit another park. She was at the Nairobi law courts where she is seeking Sh105 million as compensation for her pain and suffering. She also hopes to warn other people that elephants are dangerous and can kill.
If successful, she hopes the publicity her case might generate will lead to the enactment of new laws to protect tourists who visit Kenya’s game parks and lodges. Mrs Martin wants the game ranch to admit liability for the attack.
She says the ranch, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and its director, Mr Ian Craig, did not warn her of the dangers of jogging in the bush or provide her with armed guards when she did so. She also claims the staff at the ranch encouraged her to take a jog in the bush. They also did not take any action to prevent the elephant from attacking her.
To back up her claims, Mrs Martin called Ms Jenny Harber as one of her witnesses. Ms Harber was one of the people who accompanied Mrs Martin in her jog.
However, the ranch and Mr Craig have denied being liable for any of Mrs Martin’s claims. According to them, they were not the occupants of the area where the incident occurred.
“We will be showing that the circumstances are such that Ms Martin willingly accepted to take the risk when she decided to conduct what she calls a bush run,” said Mr Stephen Mwenesi.
Aware of dangers
Mrs Martin was well aware and had the capacity to appreciate the kind of dangers and risks at Ill Ngwesi and that the animal which attacked her was wild, not a tame one.
“She knew this was a wildlife zone and has indicated in her evidence that they went for a wilderness experience. It was upon her to take care of herself and not to throw herself into the danger posed by wild animals at Ill Ngwesi,” Mr Mwenesi said.
According to him, Mrs Martin, should sue the Kenya Wildlife Service for compensation. Mr Craig, however, recalled how he flew Mrs Martin to Nairobi for medical attention after the attack. “She was in an awful state,” he said.
Contrary to her claims, Ill Ngwesi lodge does not organise bush runs, Mr Craig said before the hearing of the case was adjourned until tomorrow.