In just one week in northern Kenya, one lion has been shot and killed and one nearly killed by men with knives – all as a result of human-wildlife conflict. An adult female was reportedly shot and killed on January 22nd in an area called Nagum, near Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Isiolo District. It appears that she was killed in retaliation after a group of lions killed eight goats inside a small village.
A second lion was nearly killed for eating a young cow in Archer’s Post town on January 26th, but we managed to prevent the men from succeeding, and she left the town to return to Samburu National Reserve. Shivani, Jeneria and a member of Reserve staff literally drove between the lion and the approaching men to stop them from killing her. This was Kofafeth, an 11 year-old female from the Ngare Mare Pride in Buffalo Springs National Reserve.
This string of conflict incidents illustrates the extremely tense situation currently between local communities and lions in the Ewaso Nyiro ecosystem of northern Kenya. In the past few months, conflict has risen in frequency and severity across the area, largely as a result of the heavy rain season, during which natural prey disperses and predators turn to livestock. Most issues are occurring outside our study area, so we have the additional challenge of working in unfamiliar areas with communities who have not had much sensitisation to carnivore conservation.
Our team has been pushed to its limits in meeting with local communities to prevent retaliation, and working to help prevent further lion attacks on livestock. We have are working 14-hour days, covering thousands of kilometers, and coordinating response efforts as best we can.
One intervention we are trying is a new innovative predator deterrent called Lion Lights, which blink around livestock bomas at night to scare away lions. In Ngare Mara village, adjacent to Buffalo Springs National Reserve, a pride of lions has made numerous attacks, killing or injuring livestock. Fortunately, local leaders reported these incidents before taking action against the lions, and in response we installed three Lion Lights. So far, there have been no attacks on livestock where the Lion Lights are installed.
Elsewhere, members of our Warrior Watch are helping people strengthen livestock enclosures, calming tensions, and discussing solutions to reduce conflict.
Samburu and Isiolo Districts are home to Kenya’s fourth largest lion population. With less than 2,000 lions remaining the country, human-wildlife conflict poses a serious threat. The approximately 40 individual lions we monitor in the Ewaso Nyiro Ecosystem, such as Kofafeth, are key to the ecosystem and vital to the local economy. We are doing our best to make sure we do not lose them.