Taking stock of the killing spree
The killing spree in Amboseli necessitated by political tensions between Kenya Wildlife Service and political leaders had a devastating effect to both wildlife and the community. Community leaders met and took stock of the killings within all of the Group Ranches. The results were shocking, but would have been worse were it not for the critical but strategic intervention of some of the stakeholders. We can confirm the killing of 3 buffalos, 5 elephants and a sub adult female lion. The lion was intentionally driven out and killed at the edge of Amboseli Park after attempting to kill a cow during the day. One of the new Morans was the first to spear, but she injured 2 people. The carcass was transported on motorbikes and disposed of and has yet to be found. Coincidentally, a male lion that killed a cow on the Tanzania-Kenya border was also killed by Tanzanian Maasai.
About 18 elephants were speared but escaped with injuries and the relevant authorities are currently treating many. These killings appeared to have instilled a sense of fear among the wildlife and added stress to the elephants. A lot of resources were utilized in protecting and providing security as well as apprehending the culprits. A total of 44 Morans were arrested and released. Thirty-one of them received serious injuries and were admitted to a hospital in Namanga and the situation is still tense. Shortly after tempers cooled, two female lionesses killed a cow and a donkey and a party of 18 Morans attempted to kill them near Kitirwa. The Morans thereafter openly admitted swallowing their pride and went home after the lionesses, with 6 small cubs, went wild and instilled some fear into them.
I love your honesty in reporting this. And I am distressed for the lion Guardian team who have tried so hard to mitigate under difficult conditions.
But I fear this is a pan African problem and this story reflects many similar stories I encountered during 11 years lion research in Botswana. Before the ban on shooting lions retaliatory killings were undertaken with either machetes or guns…after the ban the method was even more destructive…the indiscriminate use of poison.: killing not only lions but also any scavengers that fed on baited carcass.
The Lion Guardians has got so much right but without political support to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth I see no light at the end of the tunnel.
In Botswana banning hunting has had negligible impact upon reducing losses caused by retaliatory killing. Many communities live in or near wildlife areas and yet only some garner economic benefit from wildlife…those that don’t benefit have no reason to conserve species that kill cattle.
The notion that somehow it is ‘noble’ to live among lions is romantic and impractical. They are dangerous animals and anyone who works closely with them or lives along side them respects that. I raised my young family in the bush and monitored lions.365 days a year…but we were protected by our vehicles. That is a privilege that few can afford. I feel deep compassion for community members who have lost cattle and even worse family members to lions and I am appalled by the vitriol and name calling that I have seen expressed by animal rights activists. Killing a lion is not ‘murder’ it is often self defense or the protection of property that motives killing.
However, these recent killings are more worrisome because they seem to reflect a shift in attitude and have been motivated by rage and a sense of injustice. Keep going lion Guardians don’t loose heart. your model works but it needs to take the next step…working with government and initiating change at a political level. You knew it was not going to be easy and this is a tough knock…but you have a great scheme…keep at it.