15-05-2023 by Freddie del Curatolo
We did not have time to mourn the loss of the doyen of the lions of the Amboseli National Park, Lonkiito, when the battle between the Maasai herdsmen and the felines of the Kajiado region claimed six more victims, none of them human.
Lonkiito was 19 years old and was one of the lions most photographed by tourists in Amboseli, the wonderful 'living room' of the savannah reserves at the foot of Kilimanjaro. His fault was that he went further than the areas protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service to look for food, migrating to follow some herbivores that, due to drought, had gone elsewhere to graze.
The lion 'settled' for cow meat, herded by the herders of Imbirrikani village who identified him as the killer of their cattle and killed him directly, instead of waiting for the compensation that is given by the government for herders who are accidentally deprived of their cows.
But the next day it got even worse, on Saturday morning as many as six lions were killed on a ranch in Imbirrikani. According to witnesses, a group of about ten maasai took revenge on them for the killing of eleven of their goats and the dog that guarded them.
There were eight lions in the group, only two reportedly survived.
The Minister of Tourism Peninah Malonza went to the site of the murders and promised that the lions' killers would be tracked down and arrested, but the problem remains: it is the now overt human-animal conflict that is spreading as worryingly as human settlements are threatening nature reserves and parks that are obviously not fenced in and cannot be guarded as they should be.
A solution cannot be found, not least because if on the one hand the felines are seen as potential detractors from one of the maasai's few sources of income, on the other hand herbivores are being hunted down to feed on them, given the increasingly serious poverty that is turning into starvation.
Not only that, there is also the elephant problem, which is no longer just about ivory and poaching. Last December, in the village of Esaronoto, more than 200 people attacked a group of pachyderms with firearms, who they said were responsible for attacking and killing one of their fellow villagers on a bicycle. All the animals in Kenya are now at risk of disappearing, and there is no need just to punish. There is a need to rethink rules of coexistence, to preserve a heritage that must belong to everyone and also be able to return to the pockets of the people who live close to the natural areas. Otherwise it will only and always be war between man and animal.
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