Why Poison Is a Growing Threat to Africa’s Wildlife

Deadly chemicals are now a weapon of choice for those who see lions, elephants, and other wild animals as threats to livestock and property.

Two male lions had been killing cattle and goats for weeks. The Maasai herdsmen in Kenya’s Osewan region had seen enough.

Solve the problem by Christmas, the Maasai told the Kenya Wildlife Service in late December last year, or we’ll solve it for you. “We know how to kill lions,” one young Maasai warrior said in Swahili during a heated community meeting, and he didn’t mean only the spears that he and his fellow Maasai carry. He also meant poison, now a weapon of choice for herders who see lions as threats to their livelihood rather than the national symbols the wildlife service tries to protect.

Kenneth Ole Nashuu, a senior warden with KWS, as people call the wildlife service, decided that the best solution was to relocate the lions from Osewan, north of Amboseli National Park, where they’d come in contact with grazing livestock, to a neighboring national park, Tsavo West. But first they had to be tranquilized.

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