Kenya’s Famous Marsh Pride Lions Poisoned

Marsh Lioness Bibi died at 7.30am

More famous lions have just been pointlessly killed in Africa, this time in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. The details of the tragedy have been wonderfully documented by Jonathan Scott and National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, but here are the basics: the lions of the Marsh Pride, stars of BBC’s Big Cat Diary since 1996, allegedly attacked a local herder’s cows, and the owners took revenge by lacing a carcass with poison and leaving if for the lions to find later. This was Sunday. One lioness named Bibi has succumbed (above), a second well-loved lioness named Siena is missing and presumed dead; several others are improving under the supervision of Dr. Limo from Kenya Wildlife Service and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Killing lions is illegal, but poisoning is especially heinous, as it wreaks havoc down the food chain; for example, at least six black-and-white-backed vultures are dead from feeding on the toxic carcasses. Two herders have been arrested and are awaiting prosecution.

(Above: Black-and-white backed vultures are also dying from the poisoned attack on the Marsh Pride)

There is a readily given reason, of course, that people kill lions like this. The loss of cattle is a significant threat to local herders’ livelihoods, and one of the quickest ways to ensure cattle’s survival is to eliminate predators from the landscape. However, this is an incomplete justification given the legal, cultural, and economic factors contributing to human-wildlife conflict in Maasai Mara, all of which must be considered in the dialogue surrounding the Marsh Pride tragedy.

Why are lions killing cows in the first place? It seems like a fairly straightforward question, with a simple answer: because cows are prey for lions. Certainly this is true. But what of the millions of other ungulate prey species that lions have been eating for —> Read More