In an unsettling display of human-wildlife conflict, six lions were tragically killed by infuriated herders in Kajiado South Sub-county on an otherwise quiet Saturday morning. The incident took place following a harrowing encounter with a pride of lions from Amboseli National Park in the adjacent Nashipa village.
As per eyewitness accounts, a formidable pride of 11 lions – comprised of ten adults and one cub – strayed into the village under the cover of darkness on Friday, presumably in pursuit of sustenance. The pride descended upon a local residence, savagely killing 11 sheep and a dog. This sent waves of fear through the village, with the night’s events being described by some as sheer terror.
“The lions seemed unusually aggressive. The homeowner’s efforts to deter them were completely disregarded. The livestock that were killed were actually the fortunate ones. They had made it through the recent drought,” revealed one villager, wishing to remain anonymous.
With the break of dawn, a group of local men, armed with spears, pursued the lions, ultimately killing six. Most of the lifeless bodies were found pierced with arrows and spears, a distressing sight for many.
The lethal act occurred within the boundaries of the Big Life Foundation headquarters, located in a private conservancy abutting the Amboseli park. The lions sought refuge in the foundation’s premises after venturing into the village.
Throughout Saturday, representatives from the Kenya Wildlife Service, local administration, and Big Life Foundation, along with other stakeholders, convened for an urgent crisis meeting at the foundation’s headquarters.
Efforts to contact Teresia Igiria, the spokesperson for KWS, have so far been unsuccessful.
Richard Bonham, Executive Chairman of Big Life, issued a statement concerning the incident, confirming that the lions were killed at the Mbirikani Ranch.
“Our community wildlife rangers were quick to respond, driving the lions away from the homestead. However, they sought shelter at the Big Life Foundation’s headquarters nearby,” said Bonham. He added that three of the lions were successfully urged out of the headquarters and away from the town, but the remaining six did not leave.
As plans were being made for the translocation of the lions, the villagers launched their attack. Bonham disclosed that the attackers, ranging from 60-80 individuals, were largely armed with spears.
“Any intervention by KWS, Kenya Police Service, or Big Life Foundation could have exacerbated an already precarious situation, potentially causing human injury or even death,” Bonham lamented.
The incident follows the recent killing of Amboseli’s oldest lion, a 19-year-old male named “Loonkito,” who was shot with an arrow. He was speared to death in an overnight attack by herders at Olkelunyiet village, after he preyed on local livestock.
Reliable sources confidentially informed the Nation that the elderly, frail lion strayed from the park into the village, likely searching for food. Once a protector of a large pride, Loonkito began living a solitary life after his brother, Ambogga, died in a territorial conflict in 2017. After being severely injured in the fight, Loonkito became too weak to maintain his territory and protect his family.
This is not the first time locals have resorted to killing lions and other wildlife in the vast Kajiado County. In 2012, residents killed six lions that had slaughtered 28 livestock in Kitengela, on the outskirts of Nairobi.