By Friday Nwosu
Mohawk, the Kenyan lion recently killed by a ranger for attacking a man has joined the growing list of African lions being killed either for sport or for straying out of their park , a place where they are kept.
The lion escaped from a park in the capital city of Nairobi and attacked a man who was hospitalized with deep lacerations and bruises.
The death of Mohawk, a majestic 13-year-old big cat so named because of the shape of his black mane, sparked an outcry among Kenyans. Citizens used hashtag #JusticeforMohawk to ask why rangers did not tranquilize him instead.
Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto said the lion escaped from the Nairobi National Park on Wednesday and ended up in Isinya town, 12 miles away. Veterinary teams headed to Isinya after they got word of Mohawk’s whereabouts. But noise and commotion from bystanders agitated the animal, prompting it to attack the man. In order to save lives, rangers shot it before veterinarians arrived with tranquilizers, Udoto said. “This action was taken as a last resort after an escalation of the situation and a concern for public safety,” the Kenya Wildlife Service said.
The Nairobi National Park has had several lion escapes in recent weeks. All but Mohawk have been recaptured alive. In a separate incident this month, a lion escaped from the park and mauled a man on a busy street in the capital. Last month, a pride of lions made its way into residential areas in Nairobi in the dead of the night, leaving officials scrambling to find them. Some animals eventually returned to the park. Residents have complicated efforts to recapture the animals by trying to take selfies with them, Udoto has said in the past. “Are you out of your senses?” he asked.
Last year, according to the guardian.com two Maasai herdsmen were arrested for allegedly poisoning lions in the Masaai Mara game reserve after the lions killed two of their cows, according to a Narok county wildlife official.
The lions are members of the Marsh pride, which has featured on the BBC’s long-running Big Cat Diary series. Two of the lions are dead, one is missing and at least five are being treated by vets, a conservation group and a BBC wildlife crew at the scene said.
Moses Kuyioni, a local wildlife official, said the men are suspected of poisoning meat which they set up for the lions to eat. He said the lions had attacked the herdsmen’s cattle when they entered the game reserve in western Kenya on Sunday. Local cattle-herders frequently bring their animals into the Masai Mara reserve to graze.
“I am sick to the heart to hear of the poisoning of the Marsh Pride lions, and horrified to think of the pain they suffered as they died,” said Saba Douglas-Hamilton, a Kenyan conservationist and television presenter who worked on Big Cat Diary.
Among the dead lions was 17-year old female Bibi, who had become something of a celebrity during the TV series’ long and hugely popular run from 1996 to 2008. The BBC crew said she was found “lying on her side, foaming at the mouth, fitting and panting” before she died.
Conservationists first noticed something was wrong on Sunday morning when some of the lions, “were acting strangely collapsing and suffering from spasms”, according to a statement from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which funds a mobile veterinary unit in the reserve.
“There is nothing shocking anymore as to what is happening in the Maasai Mara,” he added, blaming years of “appalling management” by local authorities.
Kuyioni said that because of land division and urbanisation the Maasai herdsmen had little option but to explore the game reserve for food as their traditional grazing lands have been subdivided to individuals. Human-wildlife conflict is seen as a big threat to the existence of lions in Kenya.
Not too long ago, an American dentist Walter Palmer killed a prized Zimbabwean lion-Cecil in July last year because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt.
Palmer, who has several big-game kills to his name, reportedly paid thousands of dollars for the guided hunt.
Also, in Jos, Nigeria the police reportedly killed a lion, that escaped from the Jos wild life park. The lion was shot dead for safety and security reasons after it escaped from its enclosure.
The lion which is 43 years old slipped through the gate of the cage when it was open for its routine feeding was shot for safety reasons the authorities said.