Shenton Safaris

Poison destroys another Kenyan lion pride

The dead flies are the first sign, their blue bodies reflecting the sun in glittering piles. Followed by that sinking feeling upon discovering a poisoned cow carcass that has been eaten by more than just flies.

Dead insects, particularly flies, are always the first giveaway of a livestock carcass poisoned to kill returning predators.

Dead insects, particularly flies, are always the first sign of a livestock carcass poisoned to kill returning predators.

On the morning of 9th December a community informer came to Big Life Foundation, an NGO operating in the greater Amboseli ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania, with worrying information. Multiple livestock had been killed the night before, and lions were responsible for some of the deaths.

The call came from an area to the north of the core Amboseli ecosystem, a human-dominated place where there are no livelihood benefits associated with wildlife, and communities deal only with the costs. Knowing the threats posed by this set of circumstances, the informer was immediately sent to investigate further.

He visited each livestock carcass and the owners all appeared calm. Some had slaughtered what remained of their animals, and no one was talking about retaliation. But he missed one cow carcass.

The next day there were rumours of poison, and staff from Big Life, Lion Guardians and the Kenya Wildlife Service scrambled to get back to the scene. The rangers discovered the remains of a poisoned cow carcass, with lion tracks next to it. It wasn’t long before three dead lions were found, two of them young cubs.

Tracks indicated that at least one (thought to be the pride male) survived, but there are four other lions in the pride that remain unaccounted for.

At least two cubs were killed by the poisoning, and two other cubs remain unaccounted for

At least two cubs were killed by the poisoning, and two other cubs remain unaccounted for

The only adult female in the pride was also confirmed dead (her carcass is being burnt here), a blow to the future of the pride even if the rest did survive.

The only adult female in the pride was also confirmed dead (her carcass is being burnt here), which is a blow to the future of the pride even if the rest did survive.

The Amboseli lion population has been increasing for the past decade, which serves as a beacon of hope at a time when an IUCN assessment estimates a 59% drop in sample populations across East Africa over the last 20 years. This is a testament to the success of a Big Life livestock compensation programme, and the complementary work of groups such as the Lion Guardians.

The lion population of Amboseli has been bucking the general continental trend, thanks to targeted and effective conservation interventions. Pictured here is another pride that is still alive and well.

The lion population of Amboseli has been bucking the general continental trend, thanks to targeted and effective conservation interventions. Pictured here is another pride that is still alive and well.

But these interventions cannot reach everywhere and sadly this tragedy, which comes less than a week after a separate poisoning incident killed three lions in the Maasai Mara, was almost inevitable. Lions (or any predators for that matter) that stray beyond zones of community tolerance are in immediate danger.  Many of the communities in the areas bordering core wildlife habitat can ill afford the economic losses incurred by predators, particularly when these are not balanced by any benefits from the presence of wildlife.

The effects of poison are not limited to predators, and also take a heavy toll on scavengers such as vultures. Many vulture species are critically endangered in Africa, in large part due to the effects of poison. Picture here is a vulture carcass being burnt after a different poisoning incident.

The effects of poison are not limited to predators and also take a heavy toll on scavengers such as vultures. Many vulture species are critically endangered in Africa, in large part due to the effects of poison. Pictured here is a vulture carcass being burnt after a different poisoning incident.

There are some places in Africa where wild animals have a chance, and others where the balance has tipped too far away from natural systems. This is not a situation that needs anger to cloud understanding. These are complex issues, involving the welfare of both people and wild animals. Community engagement is the place to start, but unless predator conservation interventions can be scaled up, the reality is that it will always be difficult to prevent the ‘leakage’ effect when species that cause economic damage leave protected havens.

Jeremy Goss

I’m a simple guy and know what makes me happiest - time spent in wild natural places, preferably with awesome rocks, amazing clouds and my camera. After a number of years in the eco-tourism industry in Botswana and a backpacking stint around eastern Europe and Asia, I recently completed my MSc in conservation biology. My belief is that human population expansion, the root cause of the majority of our conservation problems, will eventually peak and reverse. My goal in life is to try to make sure we still have as many natural places as possible left at that time. See a portfolio of my photographic work or like my Facebook page for more constant updates from wherever I happen to be.

  • Terrence

    Without economic incentive, communities will continue to poison lions to protect livestock, which helps them reduce poverty. This is why groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society need to stick to protecting First world pets and not working in the conservation sector. Their strategies do not work, as evidenced by their influence in Kenya, which has produced devastating consequences. Leave conservation to the conservationists.

    • Mino

      Maybe you could check on the present state of desert lions in Namibia? Where hunting is supposed to create tolerance.

      • Terrence

        I live in Namibia. We have more lions than Kenya.

        • Mino

          2,000 lions? And aren’t you dodging the question?

          • Arganuat

            South Africa has more lions than any other country on the continent. Why? Legal breeding, sustainable utilisation, legal hunts.

          • Mino

            Thought we were discussing wild lions. SA is not even close. Try Tanzania.

          • Arganuat

            Legal hunting there, too.

          • Mino

            They poison lions there, too.

          • Arganuat

            Not nearly as bad.

    • Deputydog

      Who are ‘the conservationists’ in this case?

    • Bundubele

      Economic sabotage is the willfull, spiteful damage or destruction of
      healthy prosperity amongst a group of people. Interestingly, the Bible – if anyone cares to look into its teachings – helps: This is a commentary on the benefits of applied wisdom:

      “The Law code that God gave to ancient Israel addressed economic problems that still challenge economists today. The Law required the Israelites to set aside
      produce for the poor (a form of taxation and insurance), grant the
      needy interest-free loans (ensure access to credit), and restore
      hereditary lands to their original owners every 50 years (protect
      property rights). (Leviticus 19:9, 10; 25:10, 35-37; Deuteronomy
      24:19-21)These and other economic provisions helped people in three
      important ways: They (1) supported them through financial reversals, (2)
      helped them recover from long-term poverty, and (3) alleviated economic
      inequality—and all of that more than 3,000 years before the birth of
      economics as a science.”

      The words above are the thoughts of Professor Stephen Taylor. Does he not encapsulate the concepts of social and economic justice and by default a healthy economic geography in this statement regardless of whether you do or do not have a faith? I ask you this, what nation can afford to ignore such principled
      advice? A balanced response is required to counter extreme actions like
      wildlife poisoning and what better than apply this ancient counsel….and that is the work of any public service: to ensure as best they can a safe, just and tolerant society.

  • Jimm

    This proves that tourism cannot be the cure-all. Sorry, European tourists.

    • Deputydog

      “Sorry, European tourists” ……? I thought there were a few people actually living throughout Africa that would like to enjoy it’s wildlife, as ‘tourists’.

      • Terrence

        That’s primarily South Africans if you want to include them to the American-Euro lot. Most rural African people can’t afford it.

        • Deputydog

          Take your point about cost. That will only change as democracy and opportunity improves but that will not come about from anything the Dallas Cowboys do.

  • Tammy Sheehan

    This is what happens when people are oppressed and remain poor. They do not have the financial resources to protect the live stock from Predators. It only becomes complex when you add in the trophy hunting which really only makes the rich and the Government more rich.

  • Sean

    lion hunting can serve as a buffering zone for human-lion conflict

  • James Uitenhage

    Maybe AG CEO Simon Espley will finally wake up to the fact that sustainable utilisation is needed to balance the limitations of ecotourism. Must more lions die before the animal welfare ilk realise that their ideas are flawed?

    • Deputydog

      Is ‘sustainable utilisation’ a euphemism for killing wildlife for one’s personal enjoyment?

      • Terrence

        Nope, it’s allowing rural communities access to their wildlife. Different than trophy hunting. You should do some academic research.

        • Deputydog

          I like irony. What does ‘access’ mean though?

          • Terrence

            It means to literally economically benefit from them. Allow them to hunt plains game (impala, kudu, etc.) to substitute for protein deficiency that plagues the continent. Allow them to take a greater share of the profit from the tourism industry in lieu of lodge owners, and hotel proprietors from India gobbling up most of the revenue. Allow them to establish wildlife conservancies that are run by an elected board of community representatives from tribal villages rather than a completely state run agency that is prone to more bribery and corruption, such as making side deals with illegal poachers. That’s sustainable utilisation in a nutshell. Too much reliance on tourism (archaic ideas promoted by animal welfare groups like IFAW) spells death for wildlife because the poor can’t benefit.

  • Bundubele

    Economic sabotage is the willfull, spiteful damage or destruction of healthy prosperity amongst a group of people. Interestingly, the Bible – if anyone cares to look into its teachings – helps.The Law code that God gave to ancient Israel
    addressed economic problems that still challenge economists today. The
    Law required the Israelites to set aside produce for the poor (a form of
    taxation and insurance), grant the needy interest-free loans (ensure
    access to credit), and restore hereditary lands to their original owners
    every 50 years (protect property rights). (Leviticus 19:9, 10; 25:10, 35-37; Deuteronomy 24:19-21)
    These and other economic provisions helped people in three important
    ways: They (1) supported them through financial reversals, (2) helped
    them recover from long-term poverty, and (3) alleviated economic
    inequality—and all of that more than 3,000 years before the birth of economics as a science. I ask you this, what nation can afford to ignore such advice? A balanced response is required to extreme actions and what better that the our Creator’s advice.

  • Bianca Jacobs

    Put fences around your bloody Game farms!!!! You bloody stupid and selfish African leaders and governments! Aarg the stupidity drives me up the wall! The “farmers” poisen the lions to keep them away from their cattle but in reality the lions aint doing anything wrong because YOUR LIVING ON THEIR TURF!!
    Put a fence up and the problem is solved. Tadaa!! Cattle and farmers are seperated from the lions and the lions are seperated from the cattle so they wont naturally eat the cattle anymore.. maybe then you’ll still find a Rhino in the wild in Botswana… I can’t in a million years understand why this is so hard to comprehend? Is it an IQ factor? Selfishness? Incapability? Because its defenitly not a financial issue with all the sports cars and mansions the african leaders insist apon and all the international holidays they love to go on all the time…..

  • Gordon Goldhaber

    Kenya – 2000 lions

    Namibia – 650 lions

    SCI, DSC, WWF, and the NRA continue to spread lies, propoganda And bullshit.

    All these hunters and their supporters all automatically in every single case think
    hunting=conservation. It’s rediculous, obnoxious, amd highly overstated.

    They think that the public is gullible enough to believe that by killing lions you reduce retaliatory killings. You do not. It makes no scientific, or logical sense. There are 600-700 lions in Namibia, has trophy hunting stopped retaliatory killings? No it has not. In fact, Tanzania looses more lions than Kenya through trophy hunting and retaliation combined.

    Trophy hunters also love to castigate Kenya for loss of wildlife under a “no hunting formula”. Really now. First, I bet 99% of those hunters have never even been to Kenya. Second, How do you explain Tanzania and Mozambique. Which have lost gigantic amounts of wildlife similar to Kenya (Especially elephants).

    0.27% – the highest number trophy hunting contributes to the GDP of any African nation

    1.8% – the total percent of tourism trophy hunting makes in sub-saharan Africa

    3-5% – the total percentage of hunting revenuethat goes back into communities

    It crosses nobody’s mind to hunt gorillas, chimps or African Wild Dogs. So how hard is it to stop wealthy foreigners from shooting elephants and rhinos?

    The trophy hunting industry is to species recovery and protection what the roman catholic church was to the scientific community.

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