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Residents, KWS on high alert as stray lions wreak havoc

Thursday September 13 2018

Gatuanyaga village in Kieni

Residents of Gatuanyaga village in Kieni, Nyeri County, inspect the carcass of one of the five cows killed by lions suspected to have strayed from the neighbouring Solio Ranch, July 7, 2018. PHOTO | JOSEPH WANGUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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For more than three months now, residents of Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties have been 'walking with lions' as they encounter them while going about their business.

The big cats have, however, killed dozens of domestic animals.


In two weeks, two lions have been killed in separate incidents, prompting Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers to set traps to capture a marauding cat in Imenti South that has killed cattle and goats at night.

An officer involved in the  operation, however, blamed herders saying they have invaded parks and destroyed electric fences.

“We are working round the clock to recapture the stray lion. We urge residents to cooperate with us. Locals have been interfering with the exercise by coming out when we play the imitation sounds to lure the lions into the traps. This has made it difficult to recapture them,” he said.

Two weeks ago, KWS rangers were forced to shoot dead a lioness, that injured a man in Imenti South, after a dramatic chase in tea bushes.

Warden in charge of Meru county, Mr Francis Kirimi, said the animal likely escaped from Meru National Park two months ago and terrorised residents in several areas.


It’s first stop was Gatunga, Tharaka-Nithi county, where it killed several goats before heading to Mikinduri in Tigania East, Meru County, and Majuwa in Central Imenti where it killed 13 pigs and a cow on different dates.

“The lioness was spotted by children on their way to school. Now that there is another one in the area, we fear for our lives,” said Shadrack Murithi, a resident.

Another lioness died under unclear circumstances in Igembe North. Residents claimed it was "strangled" by a cow by officers said it was likely exhausted and stressed.

Mr Bakari Chongwa, KWS senior warden at Meru National Park discounted this theory, saying the cat did not have visible injuries.

“We have since taken some samples for analysis and will soon establish the cause of death,” he said.


The upsurge of lion invasions in Meru has been blamed on the translocation of the animals from Laikipia to the park in July.

An official privy to wildlife management at the park said the translocation of a pride of eight stray lions from Laikipia resulted in the attacks, pointing to another bungled exercise by KWS.

“Eight lions which had wreaked havoc in Mt Kenya area were brought to Meru National Park three months ago. The lions had gotten used to straying. We cannot tell how many have gone out of the park because most of them were not collared,” said the official who sought anonymity.

According to a July report from The David Sheldrick Mobile Vets Unit, a pride of seven lions believed to have escaped from one of the ranches in Laikipia was moved to the Meru park.

The lions had killed two horses and injured another at Mt Kenya Holiday Homes and attacked residents of Kiamathaga in Laikipia.

The report indicates that only two - a male and female - were fitted with satellite collars for monitoring.

But Mr Bakari said all the lions that were taken to the park had been fitted with the gadget and that that their surveillance reports indicated they were all there.

According to the 2016 KWS survey, there were about 79 lions living in and around the Meru park. This means the death of two lions is a big blow to conservation.