Second Lion Killed in Kenya in 2 Days Reignites Outrage

This was a bad week to be a lion in Kenya.

On Thursday, a 2½-year-old lion known as Lemek was found killed by a spear, the Kenya Wildlife Service said, one day after the service’s own rangers shot and killed a lion, whom they had hoped to tranquilize and capture, after it lashed out at a crowd that had gathered to gawk at it.

The lion killed on Wednesday, a well-known 13-year-old called Mohawk, injured one person when it charged at the crowd and knocked him off a motorcycle, leaving him with bruises and lacerations.

Conservationists said a rail and road project that is cutting through the heart of Nairobi National Park, a nature reserve on the outskirts of the capital, was leading the lions to try to escape in search of quieter hunting grounds, according to Reuters.

Both lions were killed south of the park, which has become surrounded by human settlement since it was established in 1946.

“Before construction started in the park, the lions were not escaping, so there are indications that the noise and blasting is affecting their movements,” Robert Ndetei, species conservation manager at the World Wildlife Fund’s Nairobi office, told Reuters.

The killings drew outrage in Kenya and online, and they highlighted the threat posed to wildlife by the loss of their habitat to expanding development.

“I had not fully appreciated the depth of my feelings about animals and the outdoors until I saw the video of that ranger slaughtering the lion in Isinya on Wednesday,” wrote Mutuma Mathiu in a column for The Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest newspaper, on Thursday. “I felt as if he had, without cause, killed a close relative.”

Wildlife rangers discovered Lemek’s speared body “under a large thicket beside a dry riverbed” near Old Kitengela township, 12 miles south of Nairobi, the service said in a statement. The area is roughly two miles south of the park’s southern tip.

Lemek’s killing was prohibited by the Wildlife and Conservation Management Act of 2013, the wildlife service said. The assailants had not been identified by Thursday evening, but an investigation was underway.

Humans and animals have had increasing contact as the population of Nairobi has grown and spilled over into areas that were once lightly populated. Some animals, like lions, cause concern when they wander off the reserve and into human communities.

That was the case on Thursday, the wildlife service said. Earlier in the day it conducted an aerial search for three lions that had been spotted in the area of Oleshei, near the town where Lemek’s body was found, it said. Those lions were never found, and it was unclear if Lemek had been among them, the service said.

The lion population in Africa has declined by more than 40 percent in the last two decades, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. The park is home to about 35 lions, and about 2,000 lions are left in all of Kenya.

That decline has largely been caused by the encroachment of human settlement on lion habitats, a decrease in their natural prey and an increase of conflict between humans and lions. The primary reason for lion killings is retaliation, it said, like when a farmer kills a lion to keep it from attacking livestock.

The Wildlife Service said it would hold a public meeting next week to “work with communities living near Nairobi National Park to mitigate human-lion conflict.”