Kuki Gallman, the Italian-born author and nature conservationist, was shot and injured in an ambush at her Kenyan ranch on Sunday morning.
The 73-year-old was surveying her Laikipia property when herders reportedly shot her in the hip and stomach. The herders were searching for pasture as Kenya suffers an intense drought, local police chief Ezekiel Chepkowny said, according to The Associated Press.
She was airlifted to a hospital in Nairobi and emerged from surgery in stable but critical condition, Gallman’s friends and family say.
Herders have said they need land from Gallman’s 139-square-mile conservancy to graze their livestock. Authorities believe some of them recently set fire to a retreat on Gallman’s property favored by her late son.
“Fear not,” she wrote on her Facebook page after the alleged arson. “I am alive my spirit holds and I shall never give up.”
Sveva Gallman, Gallman’s daughter, told NPR earlier this month that while they’ve always allowed herders to graze their animals on the land, more herders from far away have showed up with thousands of cattle and increased tensions. She suspects that some of the livestock is owned by wealthy politicians.
Gallman hasn’t been the only target of violence in the Laikipia region. Herders are suspected of killing British rancher and safari company founder Tristan Voorspuy, who was shot to death while inspecting his lodges.
At least four police officers have been shot and injured during confrontations with herders in the region, Kenyan outlet Daily Nation reported.
In February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the country’s drought a national disaster. The Red Cross says 2.7 million people risk starvation.