American lion enthusiast to sue over killing of lions in Kenya's wildlife

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 tourist and lion enthusiast Luis Franco has petitioned the Kenyan Government over the failure to protect and end the killing of wildlife.

Franco has vowed not to rest until those involved in the killings are brought to book. On Friday, Franco through his lawyer David Kipruto issued a 14-day Legal notice to Kenya Wildlife.

In the letter stamped and addressed to the KWS Director General and the Board, Franco is seeking 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 purpose of this correspondence is to draw your attention to the gross violations of the Wildlife and Conservation Management Act, 2013, specifically about the conservation and protection of wildlife within National Parks and Reserves under the purview of the Kenya Wildlife Service,” read the letter in part.

Franco in the letter said KWS has a statutory obligation to enforce general offenses in the parks including the acts of killing and maiming wildlife.

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.

Franco’s decision to take action followed the killing of one of the lions named Olobor.

Olobor was a famous lion from the Balck Rock Pride in the Mara and appears to have been Franco’s favorite.

Franco in one of his social media pages has documented Olobor and members of his pride. He is now running a campaign with a hashtag justice for Olobor. He said Olobor was brutally murdered at the hands of cowardly humans.

“To those who did this, you are not going to get away with it,” read a caption on one of the social media pages.

He said the targeted killings of lions, notably Olobor, Nyekundo, and Halftail within the confines of protected areas by herders constitute blatant transgressions against the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, of 2013.

The iconic lions he noted are vital and deserve heightened protection under the law.

The attacks on the lions he noted occur as a result of nocturnal cattle herding within the protected areas.

“Lions, emblematic of Kenya’s national identity and constituting a significant portion of the Big Five, are now categorically threatened species, necessitating immediate and robust intervention,” stated lawyer Kipruto.

Kipruto said his client is demanding prompt investigations and apprehension of the perpetrators involved in the killing of Olobor and other lions within 14 days.

He also wants livestock herding within the parks and reserves prohibited in strict adherence to the statutory mandate of KWS under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.

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

KWS he stated should also expedite medical attention for the injured lions particularly Mdogo who has suffered severe spear injuries.

He also said KWS should issue a formal and nationally recognized statement, by statutory requirements, acknowledging the importance of Olobor to the preservation of Kenya’s wildlife heritage.

“Submit a detailed and comprehensive plan outlining the specific measures you (KWS) intend to undertake to rectify and prevent the recurrence of these transgressions against protected wildlife,” he stated.

Failure to comply with the demands in the letter within 14 days Franco informed KWS that he would institute legal proceedings against the Director General and the Board for dereliction of duty and failure to protect the country’s wildlife resources and protected areas.

“I trust that you will treat this matter with the gravity it warrants, cognizant of the legal obligations entrusted to KWS under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013,” concluded the letter.

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 then said the intelligence and investigations team had responded by visiting the area but no evidence or information was gathered to prove the alleged killings. It added that it had tasked the top management of the reserve together with the Mara Predators research team whose work is monitoring lions to look for Olobor.

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