Changing Planet

Lion Killing in Kitenden, June 2012

The following dispatch from the field is reported by Richard Bonham, Founder and Chairman of the Maasailand Preservation Trust and Director of Operations for Big Life Foundation.


by Richard Bonham, Founder of the Maasailand Preservation Trust and Director of Operations for Big Life Foundation

The shocking statistics of the recent alarming decline of lion numbers in Africa has been well documented: an estimated mere 20,000 lions are left across Africa, a 90% drop in the last 20 years.

But we are in danger of witnessing an unprecedented and still-greater escalation.

Last week, we saw the massacre of a lion pride outside the Nairobi National Park—see “The Kitengela Six” post on this site.  We are now also sad to report the loss of a young male lion speared to death in Tanzania, just across the border from Amboseli National Park.

The lion strayed from the park into Tanzania, and made the fatal mistake of killing a cow, feeding on it, and not leaving the scene of the crime. As the Maasai of this area are reliant on livestock for their livelihoods, their reaction was predictable—they retaliated.

The nearest Big Life Foundation/Wildlife Management Area (WMA) team was alerted and able to get to the site quickly. With a posse of Maasai warriors tracking for another lion that had also roamed outside the park, the Big Life/WMA rangers went in pursuit to try to prevent them from killing any more lions.

The rangers managed to persuade the warriors to back off, allowing the lion to make it back into Kenya and the relative safety of the park and the adjoining group ranch.

The ranch is one of a number on the Kenyan side that has a compensation policy for local people whose livestock have been taken by lions. This program has been statistically proven to go a long way in helping mitigate human-carnivore conflict in the region. This latest unfortunate incident shows that such a program is also much needed on the Tanzanian side of the ecosystem.


While his own research focuses on learning about and protecting the fossa, Madagascar's elusive top predator, Luke Dollar has also devoted himself to promoting smart and effective conservation throughout the world. As a part of this larger dedication, he also heads up National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. Learn More About Luke Dollar and His Work
  • erika

    this must be stoped now, This makes me real sad, the mistake of the lion was to eat a cow and now he pay a big price. What can we do?? the whole world is desapearing by the humans hand and we can make nothing to change!!! really sad

  • Tina

    Too many people in this world and not enough animals. This sickens me. That lioness was a mum to babies I would think. These people are evil for having the lion sliced up and on display.

  • Brenda

    So sad with lion numbers declining so fast.

  • Jennifer

    I just returned a couple months ago from Tanzania. We asked if the Tanzanian gov’t compensated Maasai people for their losses and we were told they did. Is this not so?

  • dasha

    poor lions they dont deserve to die they were probably hungry and food as scarce at he savannah and tiger cant they just make faux fur that looks like a real tiger fur but noo they just have to keep on killing my favorite animal of all time and tiger bones people think its magical and can heal and cure diseases but i dont think so they probably lied because they have no feelings for the big cats all around the world it makes me sick thinking about the hundreds of big cats being killed each year. why ont yo tell the poachers how would they feel if they were a big cat and they got killed extremely sad

  • Abi

    This is really sad, how man can really damage the environment in general.

  • Sara

    I’m sorry, but perhaps it’s time for the Massai to evolve as well. Hunting lions are part of their tradition to prove they are men. But isn’t this outdated in this world where many of them also carry cell phones and pose for tourist dollars? For more than their cattle will bring? Also, their tradition of not killing sick or aged animals on their hunts, only the strong and healthy,-again to prove their virility- call even more into question their outmoded actions. They are warriors no more. Yes, the passing of great traditions is sad, but in a world where resources can not be seen as “limitless” or “God-given”, don’t we all have to adapt for the betterment of everyone?

  • Natalie

    It’s not too late now but we have a lot of work to do. Its so frustrating to see this and to feel so powerless and unable to make a difference but spreading the word is a great start. The more people that are aware the closer we are to stopping this hideous crime. People need to realise the severity of their actions and if they are so mindless and self centred maybe the only way to appeal to them is to make them realise they are only cheating themselves and the future generations. More importantly a short term gain can turn into longterm when made sustainable and therefore will generate more profit. I wish I could personally capture every poacher put them away for life, as well as rid those people who seem to feel owning ivory is a necessity to fulfil a social status etc. I feel as though I’m being robbed and I hope that there are more people who want to stop this before it’s too late. Worse yet we are digging our own graves through consumerism, we can’t expect to keep taking so much when there are so few of us who give anything back. So much thoughtless waste it’s heartbreaking. If anyone can look through photos of the most majestic creature on earth being slaughtered and not have any compassion or desire to end this unfair cruelty you are not worth the oxygen on this earth.

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