Wildlife officials and communities around the Maasai Mara game reserve must do more to prevent human wildlife conflict, a wildlife expert has said.
The warning came almost three months after a world famous pride of lions was poisoned by herdsmen inside the reserve, leading to the death of three animals. The lions from the Marsh Pride are believed to have eaten a cow carcass which had been laced with poison on December 6 last year.
Conservationists have also raised the alarm over constant overgrazing inside the reserve.
“The poisoning incident of this lion pride inside the reserve is a wakeup call to all of us as conservationists and communities living near reserves and parks as well as alongside wildlife.” said Mr Ndetei, Species Manager for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told Nation Newsplex.
The warning came as Narok County holds celebrations to mark the third World Wildlife Day, which aims to draw attention to the threats facing endangered species in Kenya.
The fete under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”, was marked today at Maasai Mara University. It aims to raise awareness of the links between wildlife and people, call for an end to poaching and advocate sustainable development. Narok is the home of the world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
According to a study by Born Free, a conservation organisation based in Britain, the incident shows that lions are in serious decline and conflict with humans is a major threat to their survival across much of their remaining African range.
Mr Robert Ndetei, Species Manager for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said it was shocking that tens of hundreds of cattle encroach into the reserve every night when tourists are safely out of sight. Mr Ndetei said WWF was committed to work with Narok County Government, local community and private sector to avoid a recurrence of the poisoning.
“In a joint venture from all stakeholders we have kicked off a sensitisation drive in areas around the reserve so that the herder communities can be brought on board in these conservation efforts. But this case is still unfortunate,” Mr Ndeteti said.
According to local sources around the reserve, thousands of cattle are driven into the reserve for grazing every night. Lions often hunt these animals, and in this case Maasai herders retaliated by poisoning the predators.
Conservationists have also raised the alarm over constant overgrazing inside the reserve, arguing it is having severe consequences despite the introduction of higher fines for grazing of livestock in the reserve.
Despite the millions of dollars spent on countless programs to save lions over the years, the conservationists fear their efforts are just not working. Kenya's lion population has declined from 20,000 to less than 2,000 in 50 years, with about 300 in the Maasai Mara Reserve.
Other animals are also threatened. Kenya and Tanzania recently launched a joint investigation after a black rhino was found dead in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Mr Collins Omondi, the Senior Kenya Wildlife Service Warden for Narok County, suspects the rhino, which was found in Maasai Mara some 200 metres from the Kenya-Tanzania border with its horns missing, may be just the latest evidence of poaching. KWS says the vice has thrived despite tougher penalties being approved in 2014.