Kenya moves zebras to feed marauding lions

Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:59am EST
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By David Clarke

NAKURU/AMBOSELI, Kenya (Reuters Life!) - A zebra leaps to freedom after a grueling six-hour truck journey to Kenya's Amboseli National Park. But if all goes to plan, it will soon fall prey to lions or hyenas.

Amboseli's zebra and wildebeest population has been decimated by drought and the park's carnivores are now roaming far and wide in search of food, killing cows, donkeys and goats tended by Maasai pastoralists.

The herders have also lost a significant chunk of their livestock during the prolonged dry spell and now some are killing lions to stop their precious herds dwindling further.

To try and stem the near-daily attacks and temper the anger in surrounding villages, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is moving 7,000 herbivores -- 4,000 zebras and 3,000 wildebeest -- to the park's expansive plains in Southern Kenya near the Tanzanian border in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

"The attacks are occurring almost every day, especially in the evening," said George Osuri, senior warden of Amboseli National Park. "Almost every night we will get a report of depredation and basically it involves lions and hyenas."

"The communities are very emotional. They lost a significant number of their livestock, therefore, whatever little that was left is guarded jealously," he said after an awareness meeting with Maasai community leaders outside the park.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 50 attacks and two lions have been killed. In three night-time raids this week, lions killed four cows, two goats and a donkey.

Charles Musyoki, a senior scientist at KWS, said Kenya's lion population has dwindled to just 2,000 from 2,700 in 2002.   Continued...

<p>Zebras run at the Soysambu Conservancy, 25 km from the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya</p>