Two herders risk spending the rest of their lives behind bars or a Sh20 million fine if found guilty of poisoning a pride of lions in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
They were arraigned in a Narok Court on Tuesday.
The lions were poisoned allegedly after they killed three of the cows the herders had taken for grazing at night in the reserve, according to an affidavit sworn in court by Narok Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Senior Warden Collins Omondi.
The middle aged men were accused of poisoning wildlife and illegally entering and grazing at the game reserve without permission.
Mr Simindei Naurori and Kulangash Toposat were arraigned before Resident Magistrate Allan Sitati but they were not allowed to take plea.
The County Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Muriuki Gitonga requested the court to allow police and KWS officers to complete evaluating the case to determine the magnitude of losses before the two can take plea.
The magistrate granted the prosecution’s request, after establishing that more than five vultures have also died after feasting on the lion and cow carcasses, and that there might be an ecological disaster in the offing.
In the affidavit, Mr Omondi told the court that on Monday the herders took carcasses of two of their cows, after they were killed by the lions and laced one with poison and left it to the pride of lions to eat.
He said the ‘Marsh Pride’ as the lions were referred to, were spotted the following morning by a group of tourists in a game drive and were acting strangely, ‘collapsing and suffering from spasms’.
The area around the Governor’s Camp, near the Musiara gate is home to the glorious Musiara Marsh after which the Marsh Lions were named.
The Marsh is the heart of the Marsh Pride’s dry season territory, while to the east, the intermittent watercourse known as Bila Shaka is the traditional breeding site and resting place for the pride.
Mr Omondi said a Mara mobile veterinary unit and KWS veterinary officers reported that a group of eight lions had been poisoned.
KWS have identified a lion named Sienna and her two-year-old sub adult male. It said Sienna has not been accounted for but that the adult male is recovering following treatment.
An older lioness died from the poisoning while the others are being treated, according to KWS report in an earlier statement issued by Mr Omondi in Narok town.
The KWS officer termed the incident “very unfortunate” and said investigations are being carried out to ensure the perpetrators are punished.
He said there is already an ecological disaster in the Mara after more than 5 vultures who feasted on the carcasses of the Lion and the cow also succumbed to the poison.
The KWS veterinary department is carrying out tests to identify the poison used, Mr Omondi said, adding the suspects are helping police with investigations.
Mr Omondi asked the county to invoke its by-laws and ban grazing at the reserve, and recommended a land use plan to control encroachment into parks and migratory corridors.