In response to the ongoing drought, herders in East Africa have recently slain 10 marauding lions within a span of seven days due to their predation on villagers’ livestock.
One of the casualties was Loonkiito, a 19-year-old male lion and one of Kenya’s oldest wild lions, whose frailty due to old age led him to venture out of Amboseli National Park into a village in search of food, according to Paul Jinaro, a spokesperson for the Kenya Wildlife Service, as reported by the Associated Press.
Loonkiito, who had strayed from the protected area and found himself in a livestock enclosure, was ultimately killed by the owner of the livestock when he was discovered starving, according to Lion Guardians, a conservation organization, as cited by CNN. Typically, lions do not live beyond 15 years.
Expressing concern over the rising death toll, the Kenyan government is urging herders to contact wildlife authorities instead of taking matters into their own hands.
Nevertheless, amidst the severe drought, one of the most severe in the East African region in decades, herders are engaged in a battle to safeguard their livestock from the detrimental effects of the dry and overheated conditions, which have already claimed numerous animal lives.
In a single day, Saturday, herders employed spears to kill six additional lions from Amboseli after the felines had slaughtered 11 goats in the Mbirikani area of Kajiado county. This raised the total number of lion fatalities to 10 within the week.
The latest killings marked an escalation of a worsening human-wildlife conflict, conservation authorities said, and it was “an unusually large number of lions to be killed at one go,” a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson told CNN on Sunday.
The agency met with locals and government officials on Saturday to talk about the killings, CNN reported.
“The discussions centered on exploring ways to minimize the risk of human-wildlife conflict, including developing early warning systems to alert communities to the presence of wildlife in their vicinity,” the KWS said in a statement obtained by CNN.
Loonkiito’s killing was a “tough situation for both sides, the people and the lion,” Lion Guardians told BBC News, calling him “a symbol of resilience and coexistence.”
“This is the breaking point for human-wildlife conflict, and we need to do more as a country to preserve lions, which are facing extinction,” wildlife conservationist and chief executive officer of WildlifeDirect Paula Kahumbu told BBC News.