Conservationists have warned that Kenya's lion population is in danger of becoming extinct within a few years if nothing is done to stem a wave of poisonings that have already left at least eight lions dead in recent weeks.
In the latest incident, the carcasses of two lionesses and a young male were found in late April near Lemek, apparently killed in retaliation for attacking domestic cattle. In their investigation, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrested a local cattle herder who admitted he had used a pesticide to poison the lions.
The suspect showed investigators a container with the remains of the poison he had used to lace a cow carcass that the lions ultimately ate. The container had traces of a pink powder that the authorities suspect is a form of carbofuran - a deadly pesticide commonly used in the horticultural industry. KWS has sent samples of both the lion carcasses and the pink substance for toxicological tests to confirm what it was that killed the predators.
Suspect released despite admission of guilt
KWS took the suspect to the police but despite the evidence and his admission of guilt, he was released shortly after. According to anonymous sources, a local politician intervened on his behalf.
5 lions killed in Amboseli
This incident brings to 8 the number of confirmed lions poisonings in recent weeks across southern Kenya; the other five occurring near the Amboseli National Park.
Less than 2000 lions left in Kenya
In their National Conservation and Management strategy for Lions and Hyenas, the Kenya Wildlife Service estimates that only 1,970 lions remain across the country, and said "poisoning is perhaps the greatest threat to predators and scavenging birds".
10 other lions killed in 2011
KWS confirms that 2010 has started off badly for lions - in addition to 8 confirmed poisonings, more than 10 other lions have been killed in other circumstances; A lion was shot in or near Buffalo Springs Reserve, Samburu District, by local police, while others have been speared near Amboseli National Park
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