The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: King of the Jungle is Dying

(Page 2 of 4)

Communities, most of them pastoral, have organised hunting parties targeting lions which they believe kill their livestock. The pastoralists see no value in protecting the big cats.

For them, it makes more sense to kill the lions before they prey on their herds of cattle.

Smuggled into Europe

With poaching still rampant in Kenya's game parks and reserves, lions often wander into traps laid for bigger animals like rhinos and elephants.

The traps decapitate the lions, leaving them to bleed to death. The poachers then get the animals' skins for sale to game trophy collectors and dispose of the orphaned cubs as pets.

Lion cubs have been intercepted on their way to the non-secured ports of Somalia from where they are smuggled into Europe.

This journey, according to game warder Eunice Kiarie, is often treacherous.

The poachers first pull out the cubs' teeth and severe their claws to create a less dangerous animal that can be easily domesticated.

This is not the only way that one of the world's big five is killed, said Dr Charles Musyoki, a research scientist with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

He says farmers who have lost a part of their herd to lions lace an animal carcass with pesticide, then leave it for the lions that later feed on it and die a slow, painful death.

High demand for land by a growing human population has destroyed much of the lions' habitat.

It is estimated that in Africa alone, 30 per cent of the natural ecosystem of the lion has been taken over by man.

"Areas like Kajiado, Narok, Laikipia and Kitengela are now major settlement zones," Mr Mwebi said. "Some of these settlements end up cutting off the migration paths of the lions."

When these paths are blocked, prides cannot move freely from one side of the savannah to the other.

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