American sues Kenya Government over killings of lions in the Mara

Luis Franco, An American lion enthusiast has vowed to sue KWS for failing to protect wildlife following the killing of lions in the Mara. [Courtesy]

An American lion enthusiast has sued the Kenyan Government over the rampant killings of lions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok county.

Luis Franco through lawyer David Kipruto filed the suit at the Environment and Lands Court in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Franco has named Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Tourism CS, and the Attorney General as respondents.

He filed the suit days after KWS failed to respond to a 14-day demand notice he issued early this month. In the latter addressed to the KWS Director General and the Board, Franco sought urgent remedial action to have Kenya’s lions and wildlife safeguarded. He claims KWS has failed to fulfill its mandate and duty under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, of 2013.

The American notes that early this year social media platforms were awash with information about the killing of the famous lion christened ‘Olobor’ from the ‘Black Rock Pride’ in Maasai Mara National Reserve by pastoralists.

The ‘Black Rock Pride’ is one of the most documented and studied Lion Pride in Maasai Mara and Africa. Black Rock Pride territory spans more than 60 kilometers touching Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

KWS on February 12, 2024, in a press release, while referring to various social media messages on the alleged killing of Olobor said they will provide an accurate account of the lion when they establish the facts.

KWS later said the intelligence and investigations team had responded by visiting the area but no evidence or information was gathered to prove the alleged killings.

The agency tasked the top management of the reserve together with the Mara Predators research team whose work is monitoring lions to look for Olobor.

Franco in the suit asserts that the death of Olobor is not an isolated incident as two other famous lions of the Mara, Logol’ and ‘Half-Tail’ of the Mash pride and ‘Nyekundo’ of the Enkoyanai lion coalition have been killed by pastoralists.

He claims KWS has failed to retrieve the remains of Olobor and give a deserving rest and recognition.

“The petitioner believes that this honourable court should be made aware of the international recognition of the iconic Olobor lion including winning the People’s Choice 17 Awards and Wildlife Photo of the Year 2022. Olobor portrait is on display at Museum Marina Cano Wildlife Photographer in Spain,” reads the petition in part.

He alleges that there are gross violations of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, of 2013, specifically about the conservation and protection of wildlife within National Parks and Reserves under the purview of the KWS.

According to him, KWS has a statutory obligation to enforce general offenses in National Parks, including but not limited to the reprehensible acts of killing and maiming wildlife.

The targeted killings of lions within the confines of protected areas by pastoralists he said constitute blatant transgressions against the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.

He claimed that the killings of the lions occur as a result of nocturnal cattle herding within protected areas inside parks and reserves with full notice of KWS.

Franco warned that the continued killings pose a threat to the lion’s population and they risk being extinct.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 he noted establishes designated protection areas for wildlife and imposes stringent provisions restricting the wounding of animals, deeming it as an offense to cause undue suffering to them.

He called for ban on livestock herding within the parks and reserves in strict adherence to the statutory mandate of KWS under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.

Further, Franco said there should be an immediate implementation of comprehensive security measures to fortify protected areas against unauthorized access.

He wants the court to order KWS and Cabinet Secretary for Tourism to retrieve the remains of Olobor, and accord it proper national recognition and burial within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Franco also wants the court to order KWS to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of Olobor within the Maasai Mara National Reserve and to provide a comprehensive report to the court within a specified time frame.

He is seeking orders to have KWS collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including local communities, conservation organisations, and law enforcement agencies, to develop and implement comprehensive strategies for mitigating human-wildlife conflicts and ensuring the sustainable coexistence of humans and wildlife in protected areas.

He wants sections of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 permitting professional hunting and game licensing declared unconstitutional.

Franco has urged the court to compel the Attorney General to provide legal guidance and support to KWS in fulfilling its statutory obligations and enforcing wildlife conservation laws effectively.

Meanwhile, another tourist, Alejandro Mora has initiated an online campaign pushing for the boycott of tourism in Kenya until those behind the killing of Olobor are brought to book.

At least 2, 609 people have signed the petition.

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