Why lions invade Rongai despite plenty of food

KWS rangers in pursuit of a lion that mauled Simon Kipkurui in Twala, Rongai, Kajiado County, in December 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The conversation about lions invading homes in Kenya’s Ongata Rongai, stealing and killing dogs has persisted.

Previously, a video on TikTok shows a fierce battle between students of a learning institution.

The chaos is evident, with students pelting the primates with stones, while others, frightened, run helter-skelter.

Imagine having to fight with monkeys! How bad can it get! Yet this is what the human/wildlife conflict has degenerated to.

And people get hurt, and spend money to treat bruises or fractures from such. In some cases, snakes, elephants, buffaloes, hippos and crocodiles have caused deaths of humans and livestock.

In Ongata Rongai, a lioness has invaded several homes, killed dogs and carted their carcasses away in the dead of night.

Another lion has reportedly been cited in broad daylight, in a densely populated part of Rongai, with the usual curious onlookers climbing rooftops for a glimpse of the unwelcome guest.

While Kenyans have a way to make serious, sometimes life-threatening matters comic, especially on digital platforms, human/wildlife conflict is a serious matter. And we may just begin to see more unwelcome guests in the neighbourhoods, especially as extreme weather events manifest.

It is, for instance, hard to understand why a lion would be looking for prey in human settlements, eating dogs, yet the herbivores they usually feed on in the jungle should be fatter and more available now that recent rains have increased vegetation.

Unfortunately, not all rain works for some wild animals.

The gazelles, antelopes and the likes of herbivores that lions eat have a tendency to migrate when the vegetation is taller than usual. They prefer shorter grass.

This migration of herbivores leaves lions with little to prey on. The lions, on the other hand, find it difficult to spot their prey when there is a lot of vegetation.

They are left for easy prey out of the jungle, in the human residences.

For communities that daily live and interact with wildlife, the sight of a lion would not cause such a buzz.

Problems arise when the wild animals attack livestock or humans, for which the government has mechanisms for compensation, depending on the magnitude of loss incurred.

The situation is not so different from the cases in Baringo, and others where snakes invade homes. The snakes are usually either looking for water or escaping extreme weather - heat or cold - depending on their adaptability.

In areas where forests or thickets have been cleared to create room for construction or farmlands, the usually displaced wildlife are wont to invade farms, destroy crops, as witnessed in parts of Western Kenya.

They also attack children and women. While we selfishly look at humans as victims of this kind of conflict, the wildlife are in further risk of being killed.

In the Rongai case, women may like to see the lions linger so their men can return home before dusk, but there is the risk of worst human/wildlife conflict, leading to killings of children or more dogs.

Rongai could be suffering as a result of any of the above.

Yes, climate change is a contributor, but for those displaced to create room for farming, construction or extraction, adherence to proper land use planning is inevitable.

There is more returns when livestock and wildlife coexist, as is the case in many parts of Kajiado. Improper or lack of land use planning is a cause of conflict not just among communities, but also with wild animals.

Such conflict are drivers of regional decline and extinctions of wildlife habitats, human migration, and interruption of economic activities.

-The writer champions climate justice. [email protected]