Six lions killed by herders in blow to Kenya’s conservation push

Wildlife officials say herders have killed 10 lions in the past week after attacks on livestock and domestic animals.

A lion walks through the Nairobi National Park
A lion walks through the Nairobi National Park, Kenya [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Six lions have been killed by herders in a national park in southern Kenya, in a blow to conservation efforts and the tourism industry which is a key pillar of the nation’s economy.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the lions were killed by herders after the pride attacked 11 goats and a dog the previous night, wildlife officials said late on Saturday, in the latest incident of human-wildlife conflict in the country.

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident as over the last week four other lions have been killed,” KWS said in a statement.

The killings, which took place close to the Amboseli National Park, came a day after a lion believed to be the world’s oldest in the wild was speared by herders when it wandered into a livestock pen.

“A total of 10 lions [have been] killed in the Amboseli ecosystem” since last week, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said in a statement, adding that officials had met community members to discuss the issue.

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

Residents around nature reserves in Kenya often complain that lions and other carnivores kill livestock and domestic animals as humans and wildlife compete for space and resources.

The 39,206-hectare (96,880-acre) Amboseli National Park is home to some of the most prized game, including elephants, cheetahs, buffaloes and giraffes.

“The KWS officials engaged the community in an effort to find lasting solutions that will address the conflict while protecting both human lives and wildlife,” the statement added.

On Friday, Loonkito, an iconic 19-year-old male lion, was speared to death by Maasai morans (warriors) after it left the park in search of food.

KWS in 2021 described Loonkito as a “legendary big cat warrior” who had defended his territory for over a decade.

Conservation group Lion Guardians eulogised Loonkito as “a symbol of resilience and coexistence” and said he was “the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa”.

In July 2021, a lion caused panic after straying from its habitat in Nairobi National Park into a crowded neighbourhood during the morning rush hour.

The park is just 7km (4 miles) from the heart of Kenya’s capital, and incidents of animals escaping the grassy plains and wandering into the chaotic metropolis of more than four million people are not unheard of.

In December 2019, a lion mauled a man to death just outside the park, while in March 2016, another cat was shot dead after attacking and injuring a nearby resident.

Just a month before that, in February 2016, two lions spent a day wandering through Kibera, a densely packed city slum, before returning to the park, and days later more lions were spotted in town.

There are an estimated 2,500 lions in Kenya, according to the country’s first-ever national wildlife census conducted in 2021.

Source: News Agencies