A Chinese family has been awarded Sh25 million compensation for their daughter who was killed by a hippopotamus at Lake Naivasha while on holiday six years ago.
High Court judge Jacqueline Kamau said the amount will be paid by Lake Naivasha Country Club, which was “negligent” and did little to prevent the attack.
The court also exempted the Kenya Wildlife Service from any liability saying it could not intervene on a private property, and that it was the duty of the hotel to inform the wildlife agency there were wild animals and seek assistance.
“Lake Naivasha Country Club was negligent to allow wild animals to come near the parts where guests were using to get to their rooms,” Justice Kamau said.
The judge said any private individual who “purports” to construct a facility that interacts with nature, and in particular where wild animals are not inhibited, has a duty to ensure that visitors who are in the property are well protected.
It has been a practice for hotels to be constructed near lakes or nature reserves so that guests can enjoy the spectacle of wild animals roaming freely within the hotel premises. However, the judge said this is dangerous because, “a wild animal is a wild animal.”
The award was Sh31 million but the court deducted Sh6 million, being contributory negligence on the part of the visitor.
The hotel had argued that said Luo Yi had strayed and was taking pictures of a mother hippo who was grazing with her calf, thereby provoking it and prompting the late-night attack.
Her father, Luo Jiyao had testified that Ms Yi was their only child and her death in April 2013 robbed him and his wife their breadwinner.
He recalled that in April 2013 she had informed them that she was to leave China on April 20, 2013 for holiday in Kenya with five friends.
However, on April 22, they received information from the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi that their daughter had been fatally attacked by a hippo while visiting the said hotel.
The family then travelled to Kenya.
The hotel has however maintained that Ms Luo and her colleagues had had their dinner and been escorted to their rooms, which face the open lawn area and the lakeside.
The visitors then spotted the hippos grazing around the lawn area and excitedly “rushed out of their rooms armed with cameras to take photos of the calf hippo”, said the hotel.
Ms Luo moved too close to the calf hippo and suddenly an adult female hippo, presumably the calf’s mother, charged at and attacked her “ostensibly to protect her calf, and thereby inflicted fatal injuries to the deceased.”
The KWS through lawyer Patrick Lutta, however maintained that the fatal attack was occasioned by the joint negligence of the deceased and the hotel.
The wildlife agency blamed Ms Luo for wandering into an area she ought not, taking photos of the hippopotamus thereby provoking it, and attempting to play with the hippo thereby being attacked.
The agency also blamed the hotel for failing to erect an electric fence to prevent wild animals from accessing its premises, encroaching on a riparian land where hippopotamus graze thereby exposing its staff and visitors to attack by wild animals, failing to dig trenches to prevent wild animals, as well as failing to provide visitors with armed rangers to protect them.