In Kenya, lions are speared to death as human-wildlife conflict worsens amid drought

A male lion named "Loonkiito", one of Kenya's oldest wild lions, is seen in Amboseli National Park, in southern Kenya on February. He was killed by herders in May. (Philip J. Briggs/Lion Guardians via AP, File)

MBIRIKANI, Kenya — Parkeru Ntereka lost almost half of his goat herd to hungry lions that wandered into his pen located near Kenya’s iconic Amboseli national park.

The 56-year-old’s loss made headlines in the east African country as it led to the spearing to death of six lions in retaliation by the Maasai people, who have co-existed with wild animals for centuries.

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The killings highlighted the growing human-wildlife conflict in parts of east Africa that conservationists say has been exacerbated by a yearslong drought.

At the same time, the predator population within the parks has increased. Hunger and thirst can send them into communities.

Ntereka said losing 12 goats is a huge loss for his large family.

“I sell these livestock in order to afford school fees. I don’t know how I will afford secondary school fees for some of my children,” said the father of eight.

The Big Life Foundation, which runs conservation programs in the area, has been offering compensation to herders who lose their livestock to predators.

But the compensation does not match the market rate for cows, goats and sheep.

Herder Joel Kirimbu said compensation should match the market rate.

“Cows are expensive and can cost as much as 80,000 Kenyan shillings ($577) each. One cannot compare 80,000 shillings to 30,000 shillings. We receive very little compensation. That is why we become angry and despite receiving compensation, we come out and kill the lions,” he told The Associated Press.

Rosi Lekimankusi, a mother of five, said 13 of her goats were killed by lions in the same village, Mbirikani in Kajiado County, just 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital, Nairobi.

“This is a big loss for us because my husband and I have no other jobs,” she told The Associated Press.

Her biggest fear is that such lion attacks will become even more common in her Maasai village that borders Amboseli national park.

The Big Life Foundation, which has run the compensation program for 20 years, said it cannot afford to pay the market price but asserted that the amount cannot be disregarded because it at least expresses solidarity with herders for their loss.

He said the foundation also gives the community scholarships and support for medical facilities.

The human-wildlife conflict often makes headlines in Kenya, where tourism plays an important role.

Last month, one of Kenya’s oldest lions, Loonkiito, was speared to death as it wandered out of the Amboseli national park in search for food.

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