• Morans are agitated after livestock that survived prolonged drought were killed
• Compensation plan has reduced but not ended conflicts, arrests add to their anger
Among the Kaputiei Maasai in Kajiado East and Kisonko in Kajiado South, killing of lions is no big deal.
This happens every time there is a drought or when it has rained enough to cause the marshes in the parks to grow higher than the cats.
The Kenya Wildlife Service calls these clashes human-wildlife conflicts.
Occasionally humans lose lives or are maimed in the process of fighting over resources.
And in the Maasai plains of the Kapautiei Maasai, whenever the lions from the Nairobi National Park transgress into the human habitats, locals don't take it lying down.
What happened in the last week in Imbirrikani, when one of the country’s oldest wild lions was killed by herders, has left lovers of the big cats the world over sorrowful.
Although the Maasai ceased killing lions as a sporting activity and a way of pride for some 20 to 30 years, what is happening currently is a conflict between the cats and humans after prolonged drought
Although the Kajiado East and Kajiado South Maasai ceased killing lions as a sporting activity and a way of pride for some 20 to 30 years, what is happening currently is a conflict between the cats and humans.
Sometimes, it happens because the KWS refuses to act every time they are alerted that some lions have been spotted in human habitation areas.
It is even worse when the cats break into livestock bomas and kill cows, sheep and goats. The Maasai feel agitated and their reaction is to kill the wild animals.
While the world over and mostly lovers of the big cats condemned what happened in Imbirrikani last week, the Maasai, who have just come out of the worst drought in 40 years, are also highly aggrieved that they lost their livestock.
The government expressed concern as six lions were speared at a village on Saturday, bringing to 10 the number of big cats killed in the last week alone.
The male lion, named Loonkiito, was 19 years old. Wild lions rarely live past 15 years, according to conservationists.
Loonkiito was described as frail by KWS spokesperson Paul Jinaro, who said it wandered out of the Amboseli National Park into a village in search of food on Thursday night last week.
Six other lions from the same national park were speared by herders after they killed 11 goats in Imbirikani, Kajiado South.
The deaths brought to 10 the number of lions killed by herders last week in the escalated human-wildlife conflict that has worried the government.
The government and conservation groups have a compensation programme for herders whose livestock is killed by wild animals. This is an enticement to keep the Maasai from killing lions.
Your animals [lions] came to our village to finish the little goats that were left by the drought, and you expect us to apologise? I say neverSenator Kanar Seki
After the incident in Imbirrikani, Tourism CS Peninah Malonza flew to Kajiado to meet with the leaders and see how the matter could be resolved amicably.
The Maasai leaders, including Kajiado Senator Kanar Seki, Governor Joseph Lenku and MP Sakimba Parashina, attended the meeting with the CS along with other local leaders, but the outcome was not what the government wanted.
The leaders told the CS to her face they could not apologise to the government for whatever happened until the lions were slaughtered by the morans.
Senator Seki told Malonza to her face: “Before you come here to talk to us, please release all the five morans suspected to have killed the lions. We are not sorry for what happened and if you want us to talk, release the suspects now.”
“Your animals [lions] came to our village to finish the little goats that were left by the drought, and you expect us to apologise? I say never,” Seki said.
He said the government must take responsibility and release those arrested so the local leaders can sit at one table with the government and start talking about the lions.
Parashina said he was sorry for what had happened and what the morans had done in killing the cats that had strayed from the Amboseli National Park.
“On behalf of my people, let me take this earliest opportunity to say sorry. Such a thing has never happened before, forgive those arrested,” he said.
Lenku requested the government to release the five arrested Maasais who killed the lions in Imbirrikani.
Seki, however, said the Maasai people from the entire county went through a lot of pain seeing their livestock die during the drought.
He said most of them had spent millions of shillings buying hay for their livestock just for the lions to come and feed on them.
Herders, over time, have become more protective after losing livestock to prolonged drought.
Conservation group Big Life Foundation’s Craig Miller said the killing of Loonkiito was “unfortunate” because he was the oldest lion in the Amboseli National Park.
TRAIL OF DEATH
On the night of June 20, 2012, the Kaputiei morans speared to death six lions near Nairobi after the residents were made angry by the predators for killing their livestock.
The killing was condemned by wildlife officials, who warn that Kenya's lion population, a great draw for tourists, is under threat.
Residents have been described as mainly Maasai pastoralists, who have asked the wildlife service how it will compensate those who lost their animals.
The service said the big cats were a big loss to Kenya's economy, given the number of tourists who travel to Kenya to see the wildlife.
The country has been losing about 50 lions a year for the last 28 years, and now there are only about 2,500 left.
"This implies that the country could have no wild lions at all in 20 years," the service said.
Some of the carnivores are dying because of habitat destruction, others have succumbed to disease. Conflicts caused by the encroaching human population have also contributed to the decline.
Killing lions in Kenya is a crime. But citizens who lose livestock to the cats frequently retaliate with deadly force.
The KWS says it would "strongly discourage the public in any killing of lions and other wildlife, as this is criminal".
On April 1, 2016, another of Kenya's celebrity lions, called Lemek, died one day after another one was gunned down in Isinya after injuring a man.
Two lions strayed out of Nairobi National Park, prompting air and ground searches by the KWS.
Communication manager Paul Udoto said the carcass of a two-and-a-half-year-old male lion was found in the area.
“KWS patrol rangers and the Empakasi chief discovered Lemek’s speared carcass near Old Kitengela township, about 20km south of Nairobi city,” Udoto said at the time.
He said in a statement that there were no indications of who may have killed the animal.
Members of the public had reportedly threatened to kill the lions.
The lion that died in Isinya was a famous 13-year-old called Mohawk.
He was killed after being cornered by KWS rangers at 9am on a Wednesday.
The animal, believed to have wandered out of Nairobi National Park on Tuesday night, was seen in Isinya Plains near County Resort, some 15km south of the park.
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 haveCS Peninah Malonza
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
The Imbirrikani Maasai morans who allegedly speared 10 lions to death could be slapped with Sh20 million fines. If convicted, they could be thrown behind bars for life. Or face both fines and imprisonment.
The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, lists the African lion among the endangered species. These are animals or plants seriously at risk of extinction.
It doesn't specify a fine per animal.
Section 92 of the Act prescribes huge fines to protect such species.
“Any person who commits an offence regarding an endangered or threatened species, or in respect of any trophy of that species, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of not less than Sh20 million or imprisonment for life or both," the Act says.
Kenya has about 2,500 lions in the wild.
They are threatened by human-wildlife conflict, livestock and human encroachment, loss of habitat and targeted poaching.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Kenya, WildlifeDirect and World Animal Protection are among many organisations that have condemned the killings that took place in Imbirrikani.
“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,” CS Malonza said last Sunday.
Malonza urged the Maasai community to embrace ecotourism, such as conservancies and ecolodges, to reap profits from tourism.
Section 77 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, says any authorised KWS officer may, with the consent of the owner or occupier of private land, where it is necessary, enter any land to destroy any animal that has been deemed a problem animal.
The Act says a dangerous animal, which has been wounded or injured and is a potential danger to human life, will be followed by the officer to kill on any land.
KWS will provide the owner or occupier with a subsequent report of what occurred.
The burden of proving that a wild animal has been killed or wounded will lie with the person who killed or wounded the wild animal.
On Sunday, KWS Board of Trustees chairman Walter Koipaton and acting director general Dr Erustus Kanga met the local community over the killings.
The aim was to find lasting solutions to address the conflict while protecting both human lives and wildlife.
The discussions explored ways to minimise the risk of human-wildlife conflict, including developing early warning systems to alert communities to wildlife in their vicinity.
The KWS director general and board of trustees chairman emphasised the importance of balancing the needs of the 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.
The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act says the government will establish a Wildlife Compensation Scheme.
It tasks the Treasury CS to form an insurance scheme for compensating victims of human-wildlife conflicts.
The act says the Wildlife Compensation Scheme will be used for financing compensation claims from human-wildlife conflict victims.
In the case of death, victims are paid Sh5 million, while victims with permanent injuries are paid Sh3 million.
The act says in case of any other injury, a maximum of Sh2 million will be paid, depending on its extent.
Any person who suffers loss or damage to crops, livestock or other property from wildlife will submit a claim to the County Wildlife Conservation and Compensation Committee.
It will verify the claim, make appropriate recommendations and submit them to the service for consideration.
Compensation may be paid if death and injury have been caused by elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, hyenas, crocodiles, cheetahs, buffalos, poisonous snakes, hippos, sharks, stone fish, whales, sting rays wild dogs and wild pigs.
Compensation for crops, livestock and property damage will be paid if inflicted by the animals.
The County Wildlife Conservation and Compensation Committee will review the claim and pay compensation at market rates.
The act stipulates no compensation will be paid if the owner of livestock, crops or other property failed to take reasonable measures to protect them from damage by wildlife.
The owner will not be compensated if his land use practices are compatible with the ecosystem-based management plan for the area.
“A person dissatisfied with the compensation ...may within 30 days after notification and award, file an appeal to the National Environment Tribunal and a second appeal to the Environment and Land Court,” the Act state.
Most communities hosting wildlife have been complaining they do not see any value in 'hosting' wildlife.
Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku said his community does not benefit from wildlife.
Lenku on Sunday asked KWS to unconditionally release the five morans who killed six lions in Imbirrikani on Friday night.
“While we appreciate the role of wildlife in our tourism economy, it is not acceptable that they can be allowed to invade farms and kill livestock or people,” Lenku said.
He said the killings in Imbirikani demonstrate a community's anger at being neglected.
“Our people are running out of patience with constant attacks by wildlife. We demand the release of all the five people arrested,” he said.
The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, tasks the Tourism CS to formulate regulations and guidelines on access and benefit sharing.
The CS is required to consult the land owner, the National Land Commission and the Commission on Revenue Allocation and liaise with KWS.
It says landowners shall facilitate the ease of movement of wildlife from one area to the other, considering their migratory nature.
“Any benefits accrued may be shared among relevant parties on a case by case basis, whether county, conservancy or individual land owner,” the Act says.
It states parties may enter into agreements for benefit-sharing and related transactions.