For the past month, conservationist within the Amboseli ecosystem were jubilant following the arrest in Tanzania of an infamous elephant poacher who managed to escape with a broken elbow after two of his accomplices were killed in Kenya as they try to waylay a herd of elephants armed with an automatic rifle. The network of informers from both countries, working in conjunction with authorities and MPT’s Big Life Foundation supported community game scouts, played a critical role in bringing to account one of the most wanted gang leaders along this porous stretch of border. It as a welcome relief for elephant lovers that the 22 years of poaching activities for this feared criminal are finally over.
But no sooner had we finished celebrating than another incident reared its ugly head. Two lions who are known to frequent Amboseli National Park in Kenya were poisoned with Furadan just one kilometer into Tanzania
In the first incident, a female lion was poisoned after killing a cow. The culprits removed her skin, teeth and claws. These valuable parts are worth a lot of money on the black market. Four hyenas and a vulture also died after feeding on the carcass of the poisoned lion.
Then, on January 18th, four lions (a large maned male and three sub-adult females) killed a milking cow belonging to the same owner as the first incident. The dead cow was skinned and several slabs of meat were removed, sprinkled with Furadan and then placed on ‘strategic” paths and trails for “maximum impact”. The remainder of the carcass was poisoned and left for scavengers. Many people first thought all the four lions ate the poisoned meat but our investigations revealed otherwise. It seems that only the male lion returned to the carcass. He ate the meat and died shortly thereafter. Once again, the skin, teeth and claws were removed from his body, after which the culprits sprinkled more Furadan over the remains! The three lucky females were later seen resting under a tree and looked healthy and completely oblivious to what had happened to their male companion. Our Lion Guardian team’s investigation found that the lion tracks before the incident showed these lions had crossed over form Kenya into Tanzania. We strongly believe that these two dead lions are from Amboseli.
Even though the incident was first reported to us by AWF supported scouts in Tanzania, and the zonal warden of TANAPA in Tanzania as well as a few rangers provided an escort to our investigating Lion Guardian team, these porous border need more than casual monitoring. We appreciate the efforts of KWS Amboseli, but they have their hands full battling the recent serious outbreak in poaching in the region. The different legal and enforcement regimes from both countries need to be harmonized to more effectively capture and prosecute these killers. The lack of enforcement by the Tanzanian wildlife authorities with regards to the illegal hunting and killing of different wildlife species leaves a lot to be desired. Already, rumors have been circulating that any Kenyan entering Tanzania to follow up on any incidents will be arrested or beaten-up by the local community. The so-called “East African Community Spirit” is coming under severe testing. As the Lion Guardians have been so effective at mitigating conflict and stopping lion killing in Kenya, we would like to recruit some Lion Guardians on the Tanzanian side of the Amboseli border in an attempt to prevent any further carnivore poisonings.
Photos ©2011 Patrick Sayialel