The New Times (Kigali)

24 June 2012

Kenya: Wildlife Agency Decries Death of Lions

NAIROBI, The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on Friday decried the loss of lions to both poachers and incidences of human wildlife conflict.

KWS Assistant Director Paul Mbugua told journalists in Nairobi that the estimated population of lions in the country stands at 2000 with 30 of them at the Nairobi National Park.

"KWS is concerned that rapid population growth has seen humans encroach on wildlife migratory paths leading to loss of wildlife, including lions," Mbugua told journalists in Nairobi.

According to the wildlife agency, the country has lost nine lions, six alone in the past week and four elephants since January due to conflicts with people.

Data from KWS also indicates that total wildlife mortality resulting from human wildlife conflict since January is 50, including 26 primates.

Mbugua noted that areas that were once inhabited by wildlife have now been occupied by humans leading to increasing conflict.

"Since the beginning of the year, 18 people have lost their lives as a result of human wildlife conflict, while another 65 have suffered injuries," the assistant director said.

On Tuesday, angry residents at a local village in the outskirts of Nairobi speared to death a total of 6 lions.

The wildlife body is yet to arrest any suspects but said it has launched investigations to ascertain the cause of the deaths and also dispatched rangers and a veterinary capture teams to search for the lions who escaped during the incident.

Mbugua noted that some communities are still engaging in the age old practice of killing lions in order to show their prowess but it results in loss of precious resource for the country.

Mbugua said that renewed anti-poaching operations has borne fruit as the number of elephants lost to poachers has dropped from a high of 36 a month in January to 16 in April. "This is a reduction from the average of ten deaths per week witnessed in 2011," he said.

He added that the poaching problem in Kenya is less compared to the other elephant range neighboring states. "Since January the country has lost 133 elephants and 11 rhinos to poaching, majority of them outside the protected areas," he said.

Mbugua said that increased patrolling in protected and wildlife dispersal areas has led to the arrest of 1,179 suspects, 62 alone in the past week. "In the process 90 pieces of ivory weighing 665 kg has been recovered," he added.

The East African nation has been losing 100 lions a year for the past 7 years, leaving the country with just 2000 of its famous big cats, meaning that the country could have no wild lions at all in 20 years.

Conservationists have blamed habitat destruction, disease and conflict with humans for the lion population decline.

The number of elephants has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to below 30,000. KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 per cent of her elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching of elephants for ivory.

Also affected are the Black Rhinos whose number declined from 20,000 in 1970 to current 577 in 2011.

KWS Senior Warden James Nyakundi said that they are encouraging communities with big chunks of land close to the wildlife areas to engage in ecotourism.

"We know that if the local residents derive direct benefits from the wildlife they will see value of their conservation," he said.

Nyakundi added that in order to strengthen law enforcement efforts aimed at securing wildlife resources, the construction of a forensic laboratory will begin in the next few months.

Xinhua

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