Cattle herders are still routinely poisoning lions across Africa in order to protect their cows. They don’t know the consequences of what they’re doing. Conservationists have warned that poisoning lions in this reckless manner has huge knock-on effects. Other animals eat the same poisoned meat and they die too. Then there is tourism. This is hugely detrimental.
A BBC television programme, Big Cat Diaries, featured a pride of lions. It was a popular wildlife television show. We are told that at least two lions from a family known as the Marsh Pride have died after eating the carcass of a cow which had been laced with a highly toxic pesticide called carbofuran. This poison can cause an agonising and long death. It causes dizziness, blurred vision and nausea. This makes lions easy prey; such a terrible end to such a proud and wonderful predator. The poison is banned in the European Union and although it has been officially removed from the marketplace in Kenya, stocks still exist.
The body of a well-known lioness called Bibi was discovered. A third lioness known as Sienna has not been seen for a while and there are fears that she has been killed and eaten by hyenas. Wildlife rangers have also discovered the bones of another unidentified large cat, possibly a lion, lying close to 6 dead vultures who were also poisoned by feeding on the dead lion. We can see how the chain of destruction extends beyond the original target. They’ll probably find dead hyenas next.
Although I am an outsider, it is astonishing to people like me that the Kenyan authorities have not done something to put an end to this reckless behaviour by the cattle herders. We understand that they have to protect their cows but there are other ways and the authorities must get involved because the lion population has plummeted in Africa from around 200,000 to 30,000 today according to the charity Panthera. It isn’t just lions. As mentioned, vultures are dying too and four of Africa’s 11 species of vultures are critically endangered due to poisoning. This has a negative on human health it is claimed.
The presenter of Big Cat Diaries, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, said:
“This awful poisoning of Africa’s wildlife is an onslaught which we have to stop. This is a wake-up call. We knew these lions so well, they felt like part of our family. The Marsh Pride were probably the best-known lions in Kenyan, a huge asset to this country and it’s gutting we can’t even protect them.”
The authorities have arrested a couple of Masai Mara herdsmen and charge them with killing two lions and poisoning at least six others. They deny the charges and if convicted they face imprisonment and big fines. They were denied bail pending trial.
This is such a sad story. We routinely read about the poisoning of lions and nothing seems to change. If it is not lions, it is elephants being killed in the same way, incidentally, by poison, for their ivory. The depletion in elephant population numbers is also of great concern to conservationists. Africa is under threat from commercialism because it is being exploited for its minerals and timber et cetera. It is, if you like, growing up and becoming an internationally integrated commercial environment which is placing massive pressure on game reserves and wildlife.