Lions from the Marsh Pride, made famous by the Big Cat Diary series, have been poisoned in the Maasai Mara, with at least two lions dead as a result.
According to a post on the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Facebook page, “On Sunday morning at 8 am Patrick Reynolds of Governors Camp in the Maasai Mara received a call that some of the lions from the famous Marsh Pride were acting strangely, collapsing and suffering from spasms. Patrick immediately called the DSWT-funded Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit, headed by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Veterinary officer Dr Limo, who was on the scene by 11.30 a.m.
Dr Limo confirmed that up to five lions had suffered from ingesting a poison of some description – including a two-year-old sub-adult male whose mother is Siena, the lioness we have successfully treated on several occasions for severe injuries. Siena remains unaccounted for, while the two-year-old son has responded well to treatment and is looking brighter, having been guarded all night to keep him safe from hyenas as he recuperated.
Dr Limo began treating the lions yesterday, and today the DSWT is flying in emergency supplies of Atropine Sulphate, an additional helpful antidote for poisoning. Tragically, one older lioness from the Marsh Pride has died due to this poisoning incident, and the Mara Veterinary Team is back on site today, treating some more lions from the pride.
KWS reported that three people have been arrested concerning the poisoning of the lions. With lions being endangered, the three, if found guilty, could face fines of USD200,000 or life imprisonment.”
Hyenas, vultures and jackals have already been seen preying on the carcasses of the dead lions, and conservationists expect the death tally to rise.
Collins Omondi, the senior warden at Narok Kenya Wildlife Service, said the lions had been poisoned after they killed some cows grazing in the reserve. The herders have been arrested after they took the cows, laced them with poison and gave them to the pride. Omondi said the herders should have filed for compensation and the KWS veterinary department is conducting tests to identify the poison used.
It is rumoured that these lions had been killing livestock as the Maasai bomas are right on the edge of the reserve, with the cattle being taken into the reserve every night when the likelihood of conflict with predators such as lions and hyenas is at its greatest.
A post by Big Cat Dairy’s Jonathan and Angela Scott on their website said, “The Marsh Pride have always been vulnerable due to their being a boundary pride – their territory spreads beyond the reserve boundary. This is particularly apparent in the wet season when Musiara Marsh (and Bila Shaka at times) becomes waterlogged, and the lions move to higher ground to the north and east. Each year, we lose lions to poisoning or spearing by pastoralists – that was always part of life for the lions. But in the last few years, the situation has escalated beyond all reason, with the Marsh Pride becoming increasingly fragmented by the influx of cattle and herdsmen.”
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