Lions poisoned as tensions rise over reserve land

December 10, 2015 6:05 am

 Two Maasai herdsmen have been charged with allegedly poisoning a famous pride of lions. Photo / AP

Eight lions from a pride that featured in the BBC TV series Big Cat Diary have been poisoned in the Maasai Mara in .
lions from the Marsh Pride appear to have eaten the carcass of a cow
laced with poison on Sunday. A lioness known as Bibi – a favourite among
viewers of Big Cat Diary – is reported to have died after being discovered foaming at the mouth and panting frantically.
authorities have arrested three Maasai herdsmen after the lions killed
two of their cows. A fourth suspect is still at large, said Moses
Kuyioni, the reserve’s chief warden. If convicted, they face a maximum
fine of 20 million Kenyan shillings ($295,700) or life imprisonment.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is surrounded on three sides by an
increasing population of herders and villagers who are desperate for
land. Every night, thousands of cattle are driven into the reserve for
grazing. Lions often hunt these animals – and Maasai herders retaliate
by poisoning the predators.

Brian Jackman, a safari expert with Telegraph Travel, named the stricken pride when he co-wrote the book The Marsh Lions, which inspired the BBC series.
Having watched the pride since 1982, Jackman described the poisonings as a bereavement. “I’m absolutely heartbroken,” he said.
were beautiful, mature adult lionesses. Bibi was one of the great Marsh
matriarchs. They were so well known that you would recognise them as
you would your own cat or dog or member of your own family. You get to
know their whole life.”
Jackman added: “This is not just about
the wider tragedy of these deaths adding to those of lions all over
Africa, but a real bereavement.”
Fewer than 2000 lions are left in Kenya ” and they are being killed at a rate of 100 every year.
There was confusion about the fate of the lions. AP reported that two had died and the BBC said that two lions were killed, one is missing and eight are being treated.
the Kenya Wildlife Service said that all eight lions belonging to the
Marsh pride had recovered and were no longer showing “visible signs of
A statement from the Wildlife Service appeared to
suggest that Bibi was alive and another dead lioness had been mistaken
for her.
The constant overgrazing of the Maasai Mara Reserve is having severe consequences.
illegal nightly invasions of livestock have reduced much of the
grasslands to a virtual desert, so devoid of life that there were not
even enough food for once common bird species such as kori bustards and
black-shouldered kites,” said Jackman.
The poisoning comes five
months after Cecil the lion, fitted with a tracking device as part of
study by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, was
killed by an American hunter, Walter Palmer.

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