Recent lion killings in Tanzania

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.

The Lion's carcass
The Lion's mutilated carcass

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.

The blue granules of Furadan are visible on the carcass
The blue granules of Furadan are visible on the carcass

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


  • lionguardians says:

    Just to clarify – the poachers had automatic rifles – not the elephants!

  • Jimmy says:

    This is an extremely disturbing development and adds to growing worries about the ability and commitment of Tanzanian authorities in tackling escalating poaching and poisoning incidents throughout the country including iconic national parks like Selous. The brazen manner in which the individuals responsible for these recent lion deaths went about their crimes highlights this unacceptable state of affairs that threatens to undue all the good work of the Lion Guardions in Kenya.

    Just goes to show u can never have too many Lion Guardions and I hope this wake-up call for all will lead to more LG’s and a much bigger effort by the relevant authorities to come down hard on the type of criminals responsible for such outrages!!

  • sauwah says:

    we have known killing of lions all along; but the government has done nothing about it. even though most tourists do want to see lions in their game drives unless they are the birders.

    lion guardians in tanzania is needed now more than ever for the sake of lions and live stock too. don’t know the relation of the different tribes of Maasai ( kenya and tanzania); but i am sure it’s better for the Maasai communities talk and work things out than outsiders like us. and good luck to you. lions sure need it badly.
    the man who poisoned the lions should be fined and warned by the local authorities. it would even be better if his elders give him some good talk.

  • Pirjo says:

    Eric, thank you for this update.As you know I’ve been really worried about this incident since I first heard of the poisoning.. There is no other way than try to enforce the border line, because one can’t trust Tanzanian officials. Tanzania’s president is clsiming that his country is doing more than it’s share of wildlife conservation, but at the same time he is stubbornly proceeding with the Serengeti Highway and doesn’t seem to care that over 35 000 eles have been poached in the Southern Tanzania over the past five years. It’s scary to even think that Tanzania also has half of the remaining lions in the Africa.. I fully support the idea of recruiting Lion Guardians to the Tanzanian side of the border and if you plan to proceed with the recruitment I’ll try to increase my monthly contribution. The new guardians at Olgulului are in for difficult times trying to protect the lions and they need all the help they can get. Keep us posted!

  • Lala Woods says:

    If as Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania, says “Tanzania has the most impeccable record in conservation in the world”, how come poaching and poisoning is being carried out in Tanzania without the the Tanzanian government apparently lifting a finger to stop it?
    The shared border between Amboseli and Tanzania is not recognised by wild life. If people graze their cattle next to a wild life park then there will be consequences. To protect the wild life there has to be co-operation between the two parties. The border needs to be patrolled 24/7 to contain the wild life (impossible), a wild life proof fence erected along the border (expensive) or domestic farm stock moved away from the border???? I am sorry for the man who has lost two cows, and he probably feels justified in poisoning the lions (a dreadful way to die, especially as so many other wild life including birds also die)and justified in taking trophies to sell to buy more cattle, but this is not the answer to the problem. There was a time when incidents of livestock killed by wildlife were reported to the relevant authorities who took the necessary steps to capture and translocate the big cat (usually lion or leopard) and also took steps to ensure that it did not happen again.
    So much Mr President for Tanzania’s record

  • sauwah says:

    as far as i am concerned, Tanzania is not a country famous for conserving wildlife at all. take a look at its biggest park the selous. or maybe reserve. i heard 90% of this area is hunting friendly. thus, any lion is a moving target especially a big male. even with the declining of big predators like lions and leopard, the government set higher quotas each year than the before! now with the highway slicing thru the northern national park; which will kill not only the migrating animals, it will kill off any predators whose lives depend on it. the as usual, lions are the most vulnerable. and i bet the reason hyanes in selous are the largest is due to killing of big male lions. what other species can we think of that can keep the hyanes number in check? and when killers for fun take out their desire moving targets/trophies, the male lions first ( then the sub adult males, then the lionesses ), there will be no lions left. and that includes those in park because hunters can and do lure lions and others out with their bloody baits.

  • It is highly regretful to me which is the death cause of the lion.I strongly condemn this event.It is sure the owner of the cow is local.Culprits are related with the local(cow owner).I hope the kind of poison, used by culprits will be ascertained after postmortem of carcass. The blue granules may be more poisonous if any other animal touch it.I hope further investigation to nab the group of culprits.

  • Norma says:

    This is disturbing and outrageous. Humans need to co-exist with nature bc they are in wildlife territory. How dare they deceive and poison the king of all kings. They should protect themselves and their cattle but not hurt nature. The animals just do what is instinct to them.

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