Monday, June 25, 2012

Kenya's Lion Attacks Raise Concerns on Human-Animal Conflicts

The six lions speared to death for livestock predation on the edge of Nairobi National Park.

A recent attack by eight lions on the edges of Kenya's Nairobi National Park resulted in a massive retaliation by some Masai men, who speared six animals to death. The deceased included two lionesses, two sub-adults, and two cubs. The six lions, along with two others, had launched an attack on the village of Ilkeek-Lemedung'I on Wednesday in which they killed eight goats, each worth about $60. The attack highlighted the increasing threat to Kenya's wildlife posed by the active expansion of its capital city. The rise in Nairobi's apartment and road construction is reported to put pressure on the wildlife, especially the big cats. This is especially seen in the case of Nairobi National Park, which is the only national park in the world that lies in a nation's capital. The demand of low-cost housing from Nairobi's working class fuels the expansion in the development of small towns on its outskirts. This leads to several new residents living in close contact with the wildlife. According to Peter M. Ngau, a professor of Nairobi University's department of urban and regional planning, such settlements are sprouting up on traditional migratory routes that the wildlife had long used to get access either to the southern plains around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya's southwest corner. Julius Kipngetich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), stated that the annual migration of the wildebeests from Nairobi National National Park to the Athi plains in the east has been affected by human encroachment. He further added that human population in the Kitengela area where the six lions were killed had increased dramatically since an export processing zone opened there.

This article gives a clear representation about the effects of human encroachment onto a wild place, in which both people and animals live in an intense state of uneasiness. This condition was put to the test when a pride of lions took their toll on the local livestock, igniting a merciless retaliation despite the fact that killing a lion is considered a crime in Kenya. The nation is said to lose about hundred lions each year due to such retaliatory killings, and has dropped to about 2,000 animals. Many lions and other animals are not fenced in, which in turn results in these conflicts. With these six lions killed, the KWS estimates that the lion population in Nairobi National Park has gone down to 37 animals. In addition to this recent attack, the national park has also witnessed similar incidents. A week earlier, a leopard was killed by villagers for killing a goat. Last month, wildlife service agents shot and killed a lion that was seen wondering around Karen, a suburb of Nairobi. On Thursday, three lions were chased back to the park by rangers after killing three goats. As part of the effort to minimize any human-wildlife conflict, the government of Kenya would compensate the people who have either lost their livestock or had their livestock seriously injured as a lure to spare the predators. However, this plan can only be implemented if the parliament agrees. The reason, according to KWS spokesperson Paul Udoto, is because the compensation program had been blown off by the locals in 1987. I feel that the idea of compensation must be implemented, in order to prevent any further killings of wild animals in the national park. In addition to that, I also feel that certain areas that are migratory corridors need to be treated as eco-sensitive zones meaning that no settlement of any sort should be established. Those people who have already settled in such areas should be encouraged to settle on better lands without any activity from wildlife. Furthermore, I strongly believe that many of the villages close to Nairobi National Park must be well-fortified with barriers to prevent the wild animals from entering and taking toll of either livestock or a human life. If the human-wildlife conflict continues to escalate, it would have dramatic effects on Kenya's tourist industry.

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