Arusha villagers slaughter six rare lions

  Six lions have been slaughtered by angry villagers outside Tarangire National Park in western Arusha, Tanzania, tainting Tanzania’... thumbnail 1 summary
© Jeremy Goss  
Six lions have been slaughtered by angry villagers outside Tarangire National Park in western Arusha, Tanzania, tainting Tanzania’s reputation as one of the remaining world’s lions' safe heaven.

Nearly 100 furious Olasiti villagers at Minjingu area shot down two lions and speared to death four others in retaliation following the stray lions allegedly attacking and marauding three donkeys in a kraal (an enclosure for cattle or other livestock).

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu said the government was shocked and saddened by the incident, saying law enforcers had launched a manhunt in search of ringleaders behind the mass killing of the lions.

“This mass killing of lions casts a bleak future for our wildlife treasure,” Mr. Nyalandu stressed.
He pleaded with communities bordering the protected areas to refrain from taking the law into their own hands.

“Whenever human-wildlife conflicts emerge, they should report to authorities,” Nyalandu stressed.
Nkaiti Ward Councilor Mr. Simon Abel said over the phone that the battle between villagers and stray lions also left four villagers injured by the lions, some seriously.

The villagers nursing their wounds at Monduli District Hospital were Jackson Mediutieki, Loserian Tobiko, Lebahati Korudini, Jackson Mrefu, and Msee Simon.

The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) Chairman, Mr. Willy Chambullo, condemned the mass killing of lions in the strongest terms possible, saying wildlife conservation was everybody’s responsibility.

“Our hearts are bleeding. I wish the villagers should have asked us to compensate for their donkeys rather than slaughter the rare animals,” Mr. Chambullo explained.
TATO CEO Sirili Akko said that unfortunate incident demonstrates the communities do not see the value of wildlife.

“We need to come together - public and private sectors - so that we can strategize how best we can educate the local people adjacent to protected areas to coexist with wildlife in harmony,” Mr. Akko explained.

There has been a "catastrophic fall" in the number of lions in the wildlife-rich Tanzania in the last decade, thanks to the retaliation killings.

A recent survey indicates that the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, a key country lions' refuge, has been losing an average of 25 lions annually in the period under review.
Findings by the Tarangire Lion Project show 226 lions have been slaughtered between 2004-2013 for marauding livestock.

Dr. Bernard Kissui - a leading lion researcher - warned over the extinction of the entire big cats population and hurting a $1.9 billion tourism industry, if affirmative actions are not taken.
Lions are one of Africa’s big five animals in which Tanzania, just as any other African countries with abundant wildlife, has been using them as a major tourism marketing tool to attract tens of thousands of eager tourists each year.

Others are elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos.
“Retaliation killing of lions is a silent but real threat to lion populations in the Tarangire–Manyara ecosystem where incidences of livestock keepers spearing and poisoning them have been recorded,” Dr. Kissui said.
The worst lion mass killing was in 2009 where over 26 lions were slaughtered by angry-villagers near Tarangire National Park.
Official estimates show that there are between 15,000-16,000 lions surviving mostly in national parks and game reserves with a smaller population in unprotected areas.
This is the largest population in Africa and about 40 percent of the total population of remaining lions in the world.
Kishimay Ndalepoi, one of the Maasai villagers, said the lion was considered a great enemy in the Maasai community.
“Wherever the Maasai encounter a lion, the only thing which comes up in his or her mind is killing it,” said Ndalepoi, adding that a lion is an enemy, which could kill human beings or livestock.
Available records show that the entire Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem faces a massive declining of wildlife populations due to an intolerable growth of human population coupled with ever-increasing demand for land uses that is not compatible with conservation interests.
Various studies indicate that there has been a constant increase of unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and land uses such as cultivation, overgrazing, charcoal burning, and settlements within the wildlife routes and corridors flaring human-wildlife conflicts.
Conservationists argue that such detrimental impacts of human activities have since been felt on core areas, as well as foraging grounds, breeding sites, dispersal areas, wildlife migratory routes, and corridors.
The consequence of this, experts say in a study, is a growing threat of land degradation and fragmentation, which slowly but surely is putting the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem at risk of becoming an ecological island.
By implications in the long run, the entire ecosystem will see a massive declining of wildlife populations, genetic erosion,n and species extinction.
In additional, the security of the resident animals in fragmented habitats becomes uncertain, because once squeezed into small patches, animals cannot easily escape from their enemies, like predators and human influence.
Since no wildlife protected area can be a self-contained ecological unit, core areas linking Tarangire National Park with other wildlife protected areas and habitats should remain intact for the park to maintain its reputation as an important biodiversity hot spot.
Deogratius Gamassa, a renowned-conservationist and the former Principal for African Wildlife Management College-Mweka, is on record as saying the eviction of the people within the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem and the two parks expansion were two possible options.