I have sharply condemned the killing of this lion and said in a Tweet that he was shot in cold blood, to the apparent upset of people I know at KWS. Sorry my friends, your response to this lion excursion left everything to be desired and the press statements, very sadly, were not worth the effort to send them out and a waste of valuable PR time.
This puts a huge dent into Kenya’s attempt to shine as a conservation nation ahead of the burning of 115 tons of ivory and THAT is really a shame but was brought on entirely by institutional incompetence and very poor handling of the aftermath.
The Unwarranted Killing of Nairobi Park’s Star Lion
Nairobi, Kenya – 31st March 2016. The insensitive and brutal killing of the Star Lion (Mohawk) of Nairobi National Park, by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) Ranger after it strayed from the park heavily dents the Lion conservation spirit in the country. More worrying is that this ill act was advanced by KWS mandated to conserve and manage wildlife resources in Kenya.
The delayed response by the KWS and the way the matter was handled left a lot to be desired. The local community and the administration contacted the KWS as soon as the lion was spotted and even went ahead to trail and guarded the lion for more than 6 hours in the hope that it would be captured and returned to the park. The decision to shoot and kill the black-maned Mohawk negated the principle of community-lead wildlife conservation. This waters down the conservation efforts that KWS itself, the public and partners have championed for years in an attempt to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
“It is hard to understand why KWS would choose to ruthlessly shoot the lion in broad day light as members of the public watched rather than sedate the animal and take it back to the park,” said Julius Kamau, Executive Director of the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS).
Mr. Kamau added, “It portrays inexcusable incompetence on the part of KWS, an institution mandated to manage and conserve wildlife resources for Kenyans. It is a total vacation of their [KWS’] legitimate role and someone must be held responsible.” He further noted that Mohawk’s demise will see the number of lions in Nairobi National Park drop from 35 to 34. “We can’t afford to buy our silence or be slow in this matter. Let us all act now and defend our lions, because if we don’t, we may deny future generations the opportunity to see lions in the wild as we have a population of only 2000 lions in the entire country.”
This incident is the latest in a spate of cases where the big cats have sneaked into human settlements in the suburbs of Nairobi. In the space of two months, there have been at least three confirmed cases of lions coming into contact with people in Nairobi and the surrounding areas. In early February, several lions strayed from the park at night and wandered into the Lang’ata suburb. In the middle of this month a 63-year-old man was almost killed by a lion as he walked to work along the Nairobi-Mombasa Road. The latest incident left a motorcyclist badly injured.
As Kenyans ponder the circumstances of Mohawk’s death and the increasing incidences of human-lion conflict, they must also take time to reflect on the reasons why lions are finding their way from the Nairobi National Park to the surrounding urban areas.
Why are these incidences of human-lion encounters on the rise? Is the city’s rapid development and land use change causing an ecological imbalance? New residential estates are increasingly popping up in areas too close to national parks and wildlife corridors. But even as we develop new human settlements and infrastructure, we must be wary of the consequences of destroying ecosystems that support and nurture our treasured flora and fauna.
Mr. Kamau adds, “In the past 3 years, there has been a lot of talk around the issue of Nairobi National Park and the Southern Bypass and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). These developments have caused serious negative impacts on the environment and natural resources. It is however possible to have economic prosperity and environmental sustainability complementing rather than competing with each other. This can only happen if the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and issuance of the NEMA licence to all proposed developments is well informed, objective and uphold the principle of sustainable development. It is unfortunate that the EIA process in Kenya has been compromised and influenced largely by economic forces.”
If the government would want to protect the right of future generations it has no choice than embrace the principle of sustainable development as a core value of governance as stipulated in the Kenyan constitution. On our part, the EAWLS will continue to be the evidence-based voice of conservation to ensure that this core value of governance is upheld and protected always.
For more information please contact
Julius Kamau Julius.Kamau or Robert Magori Robert.Magori
Additional information on the Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is an important wildlife area that is home to a pride of 15 lions, critically endangered bird species and the iconic rhino. From an economic viewpoint, the park caters to 120,000 visitors every year, but being the only wildlife park in a capital city in the world it is faced with major pressures brought about by increased development around it.