US Chemical Killing Off Wild Lions
Despite people knowing for years that carbofuran, a pesticide also known as furadan, has been devastating the lion population in Kenya, and despite continued calls to ban the pesticide, it continues to be used—or more accurately, misused, to intentionally poison lions.
Paula Kahumbu is executive director of WildlifeDirect, a conservation organization based in Kenya and founded by Richard Leakey. Kahumbu, who has a PhD from Princeton University in ecology and evolutionary biology, wrote about the misuse of the chemical on a WildlifeDirect blog:
WildlifeDirect scientists have been consistently reporting that Furadan has been used to poison lions.The pesticide is sprinkled onto livestock carcases to kill lions, which cannot detect its presence as it has no smell or taste. Any animal that scavenges on a laced carcass will die within minutes, and that includes jackals, hyenas and vultures.
Kahumbu also criticized the government’s non-response to the problem:
WildlifeDirect has documented abuse of this chemical, which may be the most serious threat facing wildlife conservation in Kenya today.To raise awareness and get government help, we called a workshop to address the issue of pesticide poisoning of wildlife in April 2008. It wasn’t until late 2009 that a task force under the Ministry of Agriculture was created to address the issue of pesticide impacts on the environment.The task force has achieved nothing tangible, and the agency has refused to acknowledge a single poisoning incident report submitted by Wildlife Direct.
The [Pest Control Products] Board has not called a meeting since September 2009 or explained why they have not done so.
Furadan is produced in the U.S. by FMC Corporation but is not permitted for use here. The EPA banned it in December 2009, calling it unsafe for people and the environment.
According to Kahumbu, FMC also announced in 2009 that it was going to withdraw and buy back all the Furadan in East Africa because it was being admittedly misused, but that in reality Furadan was only withdrawn from stores in Kenya and continued to be snuck into the country from across borders.
She also talks about how its effects cannot be reversed—a boy was killed after consuming the chemical and the hospital was unable to treat him—and drives home the point that the Pest Control Products Board should be calling for an outright ban on the chemical.
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