Herders Kill 10 Lions Including Loonkiito, One of the Country’s Oldest Wild Animals

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A lion believed to be one of the world’s oldest wild animals has been killed by herders. The conservation group Lion Guardians reported that herders in a village near the Amboseli national park speared the 19-year-old male lion named Loonkiito. The herders used their spears to push the lion away from livestock when it was fatally injured. The lion had wandered too close to the herders’ cows, according to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson Paul Jinaro. “It was an old lion that had issues,” Jinaro said. “Getting prey on its own is hard, and livestock is easy prey.” Lions are known to live up to 13 years in the wild.

The herders are facing a drought that has claimed the lives of millions of cattle, and many have turned to hunting big game to save their herds. Herders are also becoming more protective after losing their livestock to lions. The escalating clash between humans and predators could harm the tourism industry, a significant pillar of the country’s economy.

Loonkiito was the latest lion to fall victim to herders near the Amboseli National Park. Six other lions were speared at another village on Saturday, bringing to 10 the number killed last week alone, KWS said in a statement. The herders reportedly killed the lions after they attacked herds in the Mbirikani area of Kajiado County.

It is not the first time a herd has targeted a wild lion in this part of Kenya, which borders Tanzania and covers over four million acres of land with several national parks. In December 2019, a lion killed a man just outside the Amboseli national park. In March 2016, two lions spent a day wandering through the chaotic Nairobi slum of Kibera before being shot dead by police.

On Sunday, a government official met with community members to discuss the issue and urged herders not to spear wandering lions. Instead, the tourism minister Peninah Malonza urged them to contact wildlife authorities instead of taking matters into their own hands and to take advantage of the compensation program offered for herders whose livestock is killed by lions.

The killings are a blow to the local herders and the country’s efforts to protect its wildlife and promote conservation efforts, especially as the continent faces an ever-increasing population of human beings who coexist with endangered species. Lions are considered the most feared animal in Africa and are often hunted for their skin, bones, meat, and other body parts. The conservation community hopes the recent spate of killings will serve as a wake-up call to the local communities and inspire them to seek more sustainable ways of living alongside wildlife. Currently, there are about 3,000 lions in the wild, and nearly half of them live in Africa. There are around 22,000 giraffes and 20,000 elephants as well. Most are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, overhunting, and human conflicts.

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