Since time immemorial, the majestic lion has been the symbol of Africa’s splendor, exotic mysteries and power.
Today the animal that most visitors to Africa wish to see has dwindled in numbers, so much so that the most of the truly wild lions can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa’s wildlife reserves and game parks.
Like other exotic species, including the rhino, elephant, leopard and cheetah, the future of Africa’s lion is threatened by poaching and increased human encroachment on its hunting grounds in the name of development.
The killing of six lions from the Nairobi National Park captures the depth of the problem facing the Kenya Wildlife Services. Animals in the park are caged in a habitat choking itself to death. Kitengela was for centuries the natural corridor of herbivores that are the natural prey of lions to escape harsh weather.
Today roads, fences, cement works, flower farms and new buildings block their movements across the Athi plains, and numbers have dwindled (by 70 per cent between 1977 and 2002). The proximity of livestock so close to the parks is a recipe for disaster. The Maasai co-existed with lions for centuries but things changed after the animals started going after their cows, sheep and goats.
The respect they had for each other is gone and the lions are now even killed using poison. While it is the role of Government to protect the public and their livestock from attacks by wild animals, the latter also deserve their space.
What is happening calls for implementation of a master plan that involves the Maasai and others living in the Athi plains and restores the natural balance between them and wild animals. It is the only way.