Six lions have been killed by herders in Kenya, just days after one of the country’s oldest lions was also fatally targeted.
The six lions had killed goats and a dog in villages close to Amboseli National Park in Kenya’s south, the country’s wildlife service said.
They were speared to death on Saturday, three days after a 19-year-old male lion named Loonkiito was also killed by herders after wandering out of the national park in search of food.
Speaking about Saturday’s deaths, Richard Bonham, executive chairman of Big Life Foundation Kenya, said the organisation’s rangers had tried to disperse a group of nine lions after they attacked the goats and dog at a homestead, but six had refused to leave.
Police, a vet, and representatives from the Kenya Wildlife Service arrived on the scene, and it was decided that the remaining lions should be kept in the Big Life Foundation compound until the following night, when they could leave safely in darkness.
Mr 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.
“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 human and wildlife.”
Image: This photo shows the lion Loonkiito, 19, who was killed last week. Pic: AP There have been a total of 10 lions killed by herders in the past week – a blow to conservation efforts and to the country’s important tourism industry.
As urban settlements expand, humans move into animal habitats, leaving the animals increasingly likely to stray onto private land in search for food.
Conflict between humans and animals
The Kenyan government and conservation groups have a compensation programme for herders whose livestock is killed by wild animals, and people are encouraged to call the wildlife service when they see a wandering lion, rather than killing it.
But east Africa is also experiencing its worst drought in decades, and herders are, therefore, especially protective of their livestock.
The wildlife service said it had met with the local community to try to find an answer to the growing conflict, but it did not say what – if anything – had been agreed.