In the last few weeks eight lions have been poisoned in Kenya – five near to Amboseli National Park and 3 in the Masai Mara’s Lemek conservancy. In the latest incident, the carcasses of two lionesses and a young male were discovered near Lemek, apparently killed in retaliation for attacking livestock. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrested a local cattle herder who admitted he had used the pesticide Furadan, to poison the lions.
Unfortunately, incidents like this are not new. Reports of lion poisoning in Kenya made headlines in 2008, and in response, the manufacturers of Furadan, FMC, withdrew the product from sale in Kenya. Unfortunately, the Kenyan government has not taken steps to officially ban Furadan and therefore it can still be found on the shelves of agricultural shops and the active ingredient, Carbofuran, is still available in other over-the-counter pesticides. Carbofuran is a virulent poison, the deadly effects of which can pervade right through the food chain. Anecdotal reports of vultures dropping from the sky have been attributed to Carbofuran poisoning and leopards and hyenas have all fallen victim to the poison as well as numerous wetland birds.
Conservationist, Richard Leakey recently commented:
“The future of tourism in Kenya is at risk if dangerous pesticides like Carbofuran (sold locally as Furadan) remain on the market. Time and again, we’ve seen these substances used to slaughter our national heritage and destroy one of our greatest economic assets. Yet the authorities continually fail to follow up cases of abuse and prosecute the culprits. The Kenyan government must show that it is serious and take swift action to ban deadly pesticides like Furadan and enforce the law.
“If we fail to put a stop to poisonings, our lions could go extinct in a matter of years; a catastrophic loss for anyone who cares about our national heritage, but also a devastating blow to the tourism industry that currently brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy.”
Predictably, the cattle herder arrested for the recent poisoning in Lemek has been released, allegedly following the intervention of a local politician. Until those that deliberately poison wildlife are properly brought to account and the Kenyan government take action to ban Furadan, Kenya’s cherished wildlife will continue to tread a precarious path towards extinction.
Steppes Discovery works closely with the Living with Lions project which is currently building a database of lions in the Masai Mara and employing local Masai guardians to protect the lion population. Head of Steppes Discovery, Jarrod Kyte is leading a trip to the Masai Mara in June, where the group will meet with the Living with Lions researcher to learn what is being done to preserve Kenya’s diminishing lion population. Find out more about this trip.