Serengeti. Seven lions have been killed in Ikona Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located near Park Nyingoti Village here. Preliminary reports suggest that a local pastoralist poisoned the lions after they attacked his cow on Thursday.
Game wardens from Ikorongo Reserve Forest and Grumeti Reserve found the lion carcasses on Thursday as they and the man searched for the missing cow. The chairman of the WMA, Mr Elias Chama, told reporters at the site that local pastoralists had developed a habit of sneaking their cattle into the WMA in the evenings, when all security guards have left.
“The herdsmen managed to chase away the lions before they ate the cow,” Mr Chama said, “and it seems they [herders] poisoned the meat.”
Six of the lions died instantly. Mr Chama described the incident as sabotage. “We have a pack of 16 lions from the same family which have made this WMA famous and they attract a lot of visitors,” he said. “Killing seven of them is definitely a blow to the WMA and tourism in general.”
Had they been hunted legally, the lions would have earned the WMA some Sh175 million. The impact of this incident will be far reaching as it is likely that the number of tourists–most of whom are attracted by the pride of lions–will dwindle tremendously. The wildlife numbers in the WMA is reported to be dropping fast.
The pastoralist, who is also a member of the WMA, contested the position of chairman of the community in an election held earlier in the year, but stepped down before the poll. He reportedly left the scene on a motorcycle soon after the carcasses were found. “We came here so that he could show us where the cow was killed but when we found the carcasses he rode his motorcycle and vanished,” said one of Grumet Reserve wardens.
The lions died quickly due to internal bleeding, according to local experts, suggesting that they were poisoned. Police reportedly found a hide and meat believed to be from the dead cow and a bottle of poison. Police are still searching for the herder.
Grumeti Fund director Timothy Tear said the incident will affect tourism in the entire area. He added: “This is a blow. After Ebola has affected tourism in many areas, we expected that our wildlife would draw some tourists. Killing animals that attract large numbers of tourists will affect the sector further.”
In a separate incident, an elephant was found dead in Ikorongo Forest Reserve. Game wardens believe the animal died of natural causes, given that the tusks were intact.