Iconic Lions Poisoned in Kenyas Masai Mara Reserve

At least two members of Kenyas most famous lion pride have died as an expression of the results of poisoning, with a further five currently being treated by veterinarians and another missing. Two local herders have been arrested and charged in relation to the incident, marking the first ever prosecutions for wildlife poisoning in the country.

The accused are believed to have deliberately infected a cow carcass with pesticides, which they then left lying around in a region inhabited by theMarsh pride, known across the world for appearing in the BBCs Big Cat Diary between 1996 and 2008. Among the victims is 17 -year-old lioness Bibi, who was discovered froth at the mouth, fitting and panting by BBC wildlifecameraman Mark MacEwan last Sunday, 6 December.

The other dead lion is yet to be identified, after having been disfigured beyond recognition by scavenging hyenas and vultures, some of which have also since died. A lioness named Sienna is currently missing, with Wildlife Direct chief executive Dr Paula Kahumbu mentioning on her Facebookpage that its possible that others have died but[ their] bodies not found.

BBC Cameraman Mark MacEwan tweeted this picture of Marsh pride lioness Bibi, who died after eating poisoned meat.Twitter/ Mark MacEwan

Quoted inNational Geographic, Marsh pride expert Jonathan Scott explained that conflicts between lions and Masai herdsmen have increased in recent years, largely thanks to government-led changes to traditional land use systems. Whereas the Masai had previously resulted a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed land ownership, the process of preparing privately owned plots of land around the borders of theMasai Marareserve has considered many herders settle with their livestock in the region.

However, as cattle herds have outgrown these small plots, illegal grazing within the confines of the reserve has become increasingly widespread, with tens of thousands of cattle being herded into the lions province at night, when no tourists are around. Yet since lions are chiefly nocturnal hunters, they have begun preying on the Masais animals, often prompting herdsmen to retaliate against them

According to Scottsblog, poison has become a major threat to our wildlife, and has caused considerable damage is not merely to the Marsh pride but a number of other local species, including the 53 the different types of birds of prey which inhabits the reserve. Up to now, the use of toxic substances to slay animals has run largely unpunished, yet conservationists such as Kahumbu are hopeful that the prosecution of the men responsible for this latest assault will set a powerful new precedent.

However, poison is far from the only threat were imposed by local ranchers to the Marsh pride, with Scott claiming that the lions territory has been taken over by herdsmen who swarm all over it at night. As a repercussion, the pride has been largely driven from its former hunting and breeding grounds, which include the Marsh and a watercourse called Bila Shaka which entails without fail in Swahili, in reference to the fact that the lions could always be found by safari guidebooks at this spot.

Thanks to the increasing encroachment of settled Masai tribesmen and their cattle, though, Scott laments that the bottom line is that there is no longer a Marsh pride.

Read more: www.iflscience.com

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