Author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann shot in Kenya

Author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann shot in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Italian-born author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann was shot at her Kenyan ranch and airlifted for treatment after herders invaded in search of pasture to save their animals from drought, officials said Sunday.

Gallmann, known for her bestselling book “I Dreamed of Africa,” which became a movie by the same name starring Kim Basinger, was patrolling the ranch when she was shot in the stomach, local police chief Ezekiel Chepkowny said.

Her driver also survived the attack and drove her to the airport in Laikipia, where she was airlifted to the capital, Nairobi, for further treatment, Chepkowny said.

Richard Constant, the deputy chairman of the Laikipia Farmers Association, said suspicion falls on herders from the Pokot community who have invaded Gallmann’s ranch several times. Lodges belonging to Gallmann were burned by the herders last month.

This East African nation is facing a drought that has affected half the country and has been declared a national disaster.

Herders and large-scale farmers in parts of Kenya’s Rift Valley have been desperately waiting for seasonal rains that were to start last month to ease the drought and conflicts over grazing land in which more than 30 people have died.

Kenya’s military and police have been working to disarm and drive the hundreds of herders and their animals out of ranches they’ve invaded, but their actions appear to have escalated the violence. The Laikipia Farmers Association says when the military and police drive herders from one ranch they move into another.

The association’s deputy chairman has accused politicians campaigning for the August elections of inciting the herders to invade the ranches, saying the owners’ leases have come to an end and that herders can take over the land and distribute it among themselves.

The land invasions started late last year. British national and ranch owner Tristan Voorspuy was killed last month when he went to inspect damage done by the herders on one of his lodges.

Many of the ranches, some of which double as wildlife conservancies, were acquired during the period of British colonial rule, some as early as 1900, according to a government report. Others were purchased after Kenya became independent in 1963.

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This version corrects the last name to Gallmannn.

Tom Odula, The Associated Press