Herders kill oldest lion in Amboseli National Park


Lion crossing in Amboseli.

Photo credit: File | Jill Cohen

What you need to know:

  • The killing of the lion has been strongly condemned by local conservationists, who are urging residents to refrain from killing wildlife.

The oldest lion in Amboseli National Park has died at the age of 19.

The male lion, named Loonkito, was speared by herders in Olkelunyiet village at around 9pm Wednesday after he preyed on livestock. The village borders the Amboseli National Park towards Kimana town.

According to reliable sources who spoke to the Nation, the old, frail lion had gone into the village from the park in search of food. The lion was said to have wandered alone, away from the pride he protected in his prime.

Loonkito ruled over a large pride of females and cubs until 2017, when he began to lead a lonely life. In 2017, his brother Ambogga died in a territorial fight. Loonkito himself was badly injured. Since then he has been struggling to defend his territory and his family.

"The animal entered the cowshed around 9pm and the owners attacked him with spears before he attacked the animals. It was weak due to old age and succumbed to the spear wounds in its head," said a source.

No human or domestic animal was injured during the scuffle, which lasted less than 15 minutes.

The carcass was collected by the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS).

Mr Daniel Sampu, the senior coordinator, Predator Compensation at Big Life Foundation, said the killing of the lion signified intense human-wildlife conflict in the Amboseli wildlife corridor.

"This is purely a human-wildlife conflict. The local people have been living with wildlife for ages. The pastoralists are on high alert to protect the few animals left by the recent severe drought. Such incidents must be discouraged," he said.

The killing of the lion has been strongly condemned by local conservationists, who are urging residents to refrain from killing wildlife.

Lions are one of the most important members of the Big 5 in Amboseli National Park. According to KWS, there are over 100 lions in Amboseli and they are often seen following the road in the early morning or late evening.

Cases of locals killing lions and other wildlife in the vast Kajiado County are not new, recalling the 2012 incident when angry residents killed six lions that had mauled 28 livestock in Kitengela, Kajiado County, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

According to the KWS report, on Thursday, December 15, 2022, a crowd of about 200 people from Esaronoto village, Imbuko location, Mashuuru sub-county in Kajiado County, reportedly went hunting for elephants in the area after Nelson Lepilal Somoire was killed by one while riding home on a bicycle.

Angry members of the public killed a pregnant elephant with a spear in Esaronoto village. Several other elephants fled to safety with spear wounds.

Attempts to contact KWS spokesperson Teresia Igiria were unsuccessful. She had not responded to calls or texts by the time of going to press.