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February 18, 2019

Search on for lion poison, KWS rules out Furadan

POISONED: Marsh Pride lioness Bibi was among those poisoned to death. IMAGE Patrick Reynolds.
POISONED: Marsh Pride lioness Bibi was among those poisoned to death. IMAGE Patrick Reynolds.

Scientists have not yet identified the poison used to kill three lions and at least eight vultures in the Maasai Mara last week.

A report previously carried by the Star had erroneously attributed the poisoning to Furadan, a popular pesticide.

However, the Kenya Wildlife Service said they have not yet matched the exact chemical used.

“A KWS veterinary doctor conducted a post mortem examination in the presence of scene of crime officers and sent samples to the Government Chemist in Nairobi for toxicological analysis. The results are not yet out,” said KWS spokesman Paul Udoto in a statement.

Some experts said pink traces of suspected pesticide were found on the carcass of the cow that was eaten by the lions, ruling out Furadan, a purple pesticide.

Maasai herders previously used Furadan 5G to poison lions. Although it has never been banned, the pesticide is no longer available after the manufacturer, FMC, withdrew it from Kenya in 2008 following protests led by head of WildlifeDirect Dr Paula Kahumbu. However, the active ingredient, Carbofuran, is reportedly used in other pesticides, mostly imported from China, and not manufactured by FMC.

Dr Kahumbu said the main problem was no longer the poison used. “The problem is the mismanagement of the Mara through illegal grazing of cattle,” she said.

The Mara herders spiked fresh carcases of their cows in retaliation for predators killing a farmer's livestock.

Two herders were charged and face a Sh20 million fine or lengthy jail-terms if convicted.

Dr Kahumbu said farmers should seek compensation from the government when their domestic animals are killed, instead of killing wildlife.

“The two guys who poisoned the lions are threatening the entire tourism industry. But they should know the era of impunity is over now. The Director of Public Prosecutions and KWS won't tolerate this,” she said.

Several Kenyan scientists have been studying the misuse of pesticides to poison wildlife. Renown insect scholar Dr Dino Martins has studied the use of dangerous pesticides in Bunyala rice scheme and in Lake Victoria where poisoned fish are sold for human consumption and given away to HIV-Aids orphans.


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