Tag Archives: lion

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.

Tsavo Man-Eaters strike again

The sons and daughters of the man-eating lions of Tsavo strike again.

Well- not really. Just a swipe.

We’ve heard about how in 1898 they killed and ate 135 Indian railway workers as they toiled on the Ugandan Railway. Today, as the railway is currently being replaced, the Chinese workers have been told to work with caution as a KWS ranger last year was attacked while guarding a section of the railway. Could it be a descendant of the famous Man-Eaters of Tsavo?

For those who like learning a little about history through movies, check out Ghosts in the Darkness starring Val Kilmer, a nice film that tells the story of probably the most notorious lions in history. For those who want to see these unusually large and short-maned beauties in the flesh- although they’re stuffed- they’re sitting there waiting to ea- I mean greet you at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. If you want to see their descendants, why not head to Tsavo, hang out with the railway workers and try your luck. 🙂

May these famous Man-Eaters forever remain notorious in our hearts, and may we learn from this that lions are not to be messed with.

Blood Lions

A lioness of the Serengeti plains, free to be wild.

While she experiences the wilds here- her natural birthright- elsewhere on the continent, her cousins are being bred on farms for canned hunting.

Purposely born in farms, raised inside cages and by the hand of the human, little lion cubs become conditioned to being in the presence of humans. As they grow, people will pay tickets to pet them, walk with them, take photographs with them, and cuddle them. When they are old enough, these lions are sold onto agents and released into confined areas to be targets of trophy hunting. The funds generated from these hunting adventures has nothing to do with conservation. Unfortunately, legislation allows canned and trophy hunting to continue unabated.

The film Blood Lions shows a small glimpse into this industry. While it is very difficult viewing- and I couldn’t bear to watch it a second time around- the message is clear: there is no place in this world for hunting of any kind. Because all lives matter.

The Huntress

She’ll make the big fat kill, either on her own or with her fellow lionesses. They’ll track, ambush and corner countless numbers of gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, and other flighty ungulates. Then, after the kill is made, the male lion will get first dibs on tucking into the feast. 

Males will, however, go off and hunt themselves if they don’t have females in their pride, or if food scarcity is so dire that there just isn’t enough to share around.

Here, this gorgeous killer is with her lioness accomplices and cubs on a feast of zebra. That split moment of a connection that I had with her was priceless. She looked up momentarily and gave a gaze that was both intense and intimate. And what a precious moment that was, which is thankfully captured in time in an image.

Here’s to the art- and utility- of photography.

Mohawk

It is with great sadness that I write about Mohawk, a male lion that was shot just over 48 hours ago after he escaped Nairobi National Park. He endured torment and heckling by crowds for hours in Kajiado county before a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger shot him 9 times. The 13-year-old lion was cornered and surrounded by a rowdy mob for 6 hours, stoned and taunted, and became highly stressed, which led him to swat a man on a motorbike- prompting the rangers to fire.

The first KWS team dispatched, interestingly, only had rifles. The second team were on their way with tranquilisers, but Mohawk was shot before they arrived. Moreover, for them to arrive 6 hours after the lion was first reported as being found 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. Noisy construction work on a rail project that will cut through the park is assumed to be driving them away through an open migratory corridor in the south. I posted previously about Cheru, another male who had escaped only weeks ago- but I did not expect that a lion would soon lose his life doing so, simply to get to a quieter area.

There had to have been a better way. If any animal is stressed, it will react. Controlling the group, and educating society on the need to stay away from a wild creature, and not provoke it, is paramount to ensure safety for all. This death didn’t have to happen. But it did, and by it, we are all diminished.

Escape

Yet another lion was on the loose in Nairobi today. The lion, named Cheru, ‘escaped’ out of Nairobi National Park and wandered onto the chaotic Mombasa Rd, one of the major arterials that are 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.

Last month, 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- leaving orphan cubs in its trail- and deliver him back alive.

While the park is fenced on the city side, it has small openings on the south to enable wildlife to migrate through important corridors, which is allegedly where the lions wandered out of.

Gazetted in 1946 by British settlers, it 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. Plans are in place to build a Chinese railway through the park to improve trade routes from Mombasa to Nairobi and neighbouring countries.

While the Government prioritises development, and in the wake of this “escape”, protection of these areas of wilderness becomes all the more paramount. It is clear that we must prioritise the protection of these parks- for it is as much the lions’ land as it is ours.