Tag Archives: human-wildlife conflict

Why Nairobi lions are heading to residential areas

On March 18 this year, Cheru, a male lion, ‘escaped’ out of Nairobi National Park and wandered onto the chaotic Mombasa Rd, one of the major arterials that is almost always congested with traffic. He clawed a man- and then let the man go free- and was then captured shortly after by Kenya Wildlife Service and returned safely back to the park, which sits at the border of the bustling metropolis.

In the month prior, 6 other lions had reportedly escaped from the park and were found in the informal settlement area of Kibera and near Langata, near Karen- both residential areas. Many took to social media to express their panic and to also assist the KWS in tracking down these wild cats. Many pleaded not to shoot the lion as had been done once before, which had left orphan cubs in its wake- but instead, deliver him back to the park alive.

It wasn’t until March 30, when another lion, Mohawk, escaped from the park which led to its death. The 13-year-old male lion of Nairobi National Park and a popular tourist favourite, endured torment and heckling by crowds for hours in Kajiado county where he was found. The 13-year-old lion was cornered and surrounded by a large rowdy mob of roughly 400 people, for up to 6 hours, stoned and taunted, and became highly stressed, which drove him to swat a man on a motorbike- prompting a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger to shoot him 9 times.

The first KWS team that was dispatched to contain the situation, interestingly, only had rifles. The second team were on their way with tranquilisers, but Mohawk was shot before they arrived. The fact that rangers arrived 6 hours after the first report of Mohawk’s location came in raises further questions- Kajiado is only 30kms away from the Nairobi NP headquarters, and even with traffic, southbound, they would have arrived far faster than the time that they did.

Lions escaping Nairobi NP has not happened like this before with such frequency and in such numbers. The park, gazetted in 1946 by British settlers, is the oldest national park in Kenya, but sadly one that is under threat due to the need to manage the rapid development of this fast-growing nation. A railway is currently being built through the park to improve trade routes from Mombasa to Nairobi and neighbouring countries. The noisy construction work is assumed to be driving lions out through an open migratory corridor in the south. The livestock that they find in the villages also draws them out of the park. It may only be a matter of time before another lion escapes, which could ultimately lead to its unnecessary death.

Living in harmony

While ways to deal with charging elephants in parks is well known, human-elephant conflict occurs every day in the wider world, which results in hundreds of human and elephant casualties yearly. Village populations spend a good chunk of time protecting their crops from being eaten by elephants, or their homes from being accidentally trampled on- an issue that spans across both the African and Asian regions. What we’re merely seeing here, however, is just an elephant being an elephant. But due to their supposed encroachment on ‘human territory’, they are subsequently killed by electrocution, poisoning, shot, or all of the above. For many who are unaware of the alternatives, the simplest solution is to kill the creature, and in so doing, kill the ’nuisance’. More lastingly is the animosity towards elephants that perpetuates, and subsequently passed down to future generations. This cannot by any means, be sustainable for both the human or the elephant species.

We all share the same space. No problem should ever have to result in death.

Support organisations such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Born Free Foundation that seek to reduce human-elephant conflict in ethical ways, by promoting alternatives to deter elephants from villages while ensuring pathways for sustainable livelihoods. Because all lives matter.

“All breathing, existing, living sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”