Outrage after 10 lions speared dead in just a week

CS promises arrest of Maasai morans who on Saturday killed six lions that invaded a manyatta and killed 12 sheep

In Summary

•Kenya has approximately 2,500 lions.

•Habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict are the main threats facing big cats in Kenya

One of the six lions killed in Imbirrikani on Friday night. image: KURGAT MARINDANY.
One of the six lions killed in Imbirrikani on Friday night. image: KURGAT MARINDANY.

The killing of 10 lions in just under one week within the Amboseli conservation area as a result of human-wildlife conflict has led to an uproar.

World Wide Fund for Nature Kenya (WWF-Kenya) has condemned the killing.

WWF-Kenya Biodiversity, Research and Innovation Programme, Manager Dr Yussuf Wato said the Human-lion conflict is now an unprecedented crisis.

"A threat to people's lives, their livelihoods, and the dwindling lion population. With about 2,500 lions left in the wild in Kenya, the retaliatory killing of 10 lions in less than a week, including the oldest lion in Amboseli is a wake-up call," he said.

Tourism CS Peninah Malonza yesterday flew to Imbirrikani where the six lions were speared dead and promised to have the killers arrested.

Malonza decried the killing of lions and other wildlife in the area as she called for dialogue between the Kenya Wildlife Service personnel and the Maasai community members.

“The government will not tolerate such actions. We have an elaborate way of addressing such cases and we cannot allow the morans to act as they have,” the CS said.

Irate Maasai morans killed six lions in Kajiado South subcounty in Nashipa village after the cats allegedly invaded their livestock.

The lions, suspected to have crossed over from the Amboseli National Park, are said to have invaded the village on Friday night and killed 12 sheep and a dog.

An eyewitness and a neighbour of the homeowner told the Star that attempts to scare the lions bore no fruits.

Wato said unless "we act decisively and urgently we could be facing the extinction of lions in Kenya in our generation."

"Our human-wildlife conflict interventions and mitigation measures need a radical shift and to be urgently scaled up."

WWF-Kenya CEO Mohamed Awer said pastoralists returned home with nothing but herding sticks in their hands - drained, emaciated, and depressed because they lost all their livestock due to drought.

"These are communities that host over 60 per cent of wildlife on their private lands that serve as wildlife corridors and dispersal areas. How do we expect them to continue being custodians of our unique wildlife when they have lost their entire livelihood? The prolonged drought has consumed 80 per cent of the pastoral economy. We need to act now and act fast, to mitigate this unprecedented crisis by adopting appropriate climate adaptation and resilience measures," Awer said.

WWF-Kenya is a locally registered-governmental conservation organisation; an affiliate of WWF International.

It has been working in Kenya since 1962 alongside the government, civil society, private sector organisations, and local communities.

It seeks to contribute towards providing an enabling environment for the achievement of a healthy natural environment supporting people and sustainable development in Kenya.

Conservationist Dr Paula Kahumbu said; "May their killers be brought to book and punished for killing endangered species, threatening the economy and setting a disastrous precedent for Kenya despite millions in compensation and conservation development paid over the years."

"The benefits of tourism in Kenya are clearly not going to the right people if they believe that justice for the death of 12 goats and a dog is killing 10 lions. I don’t know why we are fighting commercial hunting if we allow this barbaric behaviour. Shame on all of us. We can do better. We must do better," she said.

According to Big Life Foundation Executive chairman Richard Bonham, the incident unfolded after a group of nine subadult lions broke into a livestock enclosure near Mbirikani town on the night of May 12.

The Big cats are reported to have killed 12 goats and a dog.

"Big Life Foundation’s community wildlife rangers responded immediately, pushing the lions away from the homestead," Bonham said.

Bonham said the lions then moved into Big Life’s fenced headquarters nearby.

He said Big Life staff were able to push three lions out of the premises during the night and they moved away from the town to safety, but the other six remained inside the compound overnight.

In the morning, KWS arrived at the scene and a vet was mobilised from Tsavo Conservation Area to assess the potential for translocation.

Bonham said the preliminary decision was made to leave the lions inside the compound until the following night when they could leave safely under cover of darkness.

He said Kenya Police Service was also on the scene to ensure human safety throughout the day.

Bonham said over the course of the day, a crowd continued to build, and tensions spilled over as dozens of people broke through the compound fence, spearing all six lions.

"Many members of the crowd were armed with spears, and any intervention by KWS, the Kenya Police Service, or Big Life would have risked escalation of an extremely volatile situation, and almost certainly resulted in human injury or death," he said.

"While we are relieved there were no human injuries, this isolated but tragic incident is a harsh illustration of the challenges in ensuring co-existence between humans and wildlife."

Bonham said Big Life remains committed to the well-being of both humans and animals in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem and will continue to work with the broader community and supports conservation initiatives as country recover from this event.

He said the incident exemplifies the ongoing need for Big Life’s predator protection programmes.

Bonham said the number of lions killed by humans on Mbirikani Ranch has dropped 97 per cent since Big Life started a livestock compensation programme (known as the Predator Compensation Fund) in 2003, along with other complementary initiatives.

He said in the one and a half years before the Predator Compensation Fund launched, at least 31 lions were killed in Mbirikani.

"In the 20 years since, until today’s incident, only 13 have been killed. The situation is being taken extremely seriously by Kenya Wildlife Service."

On May 13, KWS Board of Trustees chair Walter Koipaton and Acting Director General Dr Erustus Kanga met with the local community over the incident.

The officials met with the community in an effort to find lasting solutions that will address the conflict while protecting both human lives and wildlife.

The discussions centred on exploring ways to minimise the risk of human-wildlife conflict, including developing early warning systems to alert communities to the presence of wildlife in their vicinity.

The KWS Director general and Board of Trustees chairperson emphasised the importance of balancing the needs of the local communities with the need to protect wildlife.

They urged the community to report any incidents of human-wildlife conflict to the KWS and assured them that they would work together to find lasting solutions to the conflicts.

KWS is dedicated to safeguarding Kenya's wildlife and ensuring wildlife continues to be an integral part of our country's heritage.

The service encourages everyone to work together towards creating a peaceful co-existence between humans and wildlife.

Elephants research scientists Jim Justus Nyamu said two wrongs can't and will not make a right.

"My friends ( Pastoralists) I do know of many programmes, particularly in Amboseli established in compensating for the predation cases leave alone the GoK one, we are recovering from drought where both wildlife and livestock were severely affected. Let's address our anger in a sober way instead of killing lions et al."





-Edited by SKanyara

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