A pride of six lionesses kill 257 animals at Maktau village in Mwatate
Panic is spreading amongst residents of Maktau village in Mwatate sub-county after six rogue lionesses from Tsavo National Park invaded their homesteads killing a record 257 livestock in the last one month.
Residents claim the pride strikes almost every night leaving a trail of death, destruction and massive losses in its wake.
The predators have also imposed an undeclared dusk-to-dawn curfew in the village, confining villagers to their houses until the sunrises the following day.
Speaking to KNA on Wednesday, Mr. Abel Mwangeka, a resident, said the lionesses terrorize the village at night by jumping over the livestock sheds and proceed to kill indiscriminately goats, donkeys and cows.
“These cats have made our lives a living hell. They come at sunset and leave at dawn. We need them gone,” he said.
Since the beginning of May, the village has lost 175 goats, 35 donkeys and 60 cows.
The livestock carnage has been so severe that six livestock farmers have no single animal left in their sheds after the predators’ struck.
Mr. Silas Mwambi, a farmer, said all his 16 goats were killed and he has not been compensated yet. He said that the lionesses have camped in the region after realizing there is plenty of meat from domestic livestock.
He wondered why the predators couldn’t go after antelopes and gazelles in the national park yet they are teeming with grass eaters.
“We are practically under siege. These lionesses have developed a sweet taste for goats, cows and donkeys. They won’t leave until all our animals are gone,” said the farmer.
When contacted, Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant Director George Osuri said a specialized team has been deployed in the area to trap the troublesome animals and translocate them to other parts of the park, far from human settlement.
He added that local residents had been trained on how to act once the predators were seen.
“There is a team on the ground that is actively hunting for the animals. We hope to trap them soon,” he said.
However, residents insisted the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) team sent to Maktau was very ineffective and often turn up at homesteads long after the predators have killed and vanished.
Maktau village, which borders Tsavo West National Park, is a flash-point of human-wildlife conflict in the region. In the past, there has been various reports on elephants’ invasion of farms resulting to extensive destruction of crops.
A team of Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) has a base in Maktau to handle such situations.
Mr. John Mlamba, chair of County Wildlife Compensation Committee, said they had received many complaints and claims from the residents. He noted that the problem might be exacerbated by a spike in small-game hunting that has depleted the number of prey in the park.
“Lions rarely stray out of protected areas in a group to feed on livestock. Hunting of game meat has contributed a lot to this scenario,” he said.
Residents warned that if KWS failed to take action against the predators, they will be forced to protect their animals by all means necessary.
By Wagema Mwangi