Suburban Lions Present a Conundrum

nd bring in millions of dollars from safari tourism, but they are hard to live with and potentially very dangerous.

The African lion is listed as a threatened species by theInternational Union for the Conservation of Nature. Only 20,000 to 40,000 wild lions remain, in just 20 percent of the historical range of the species.

As the human population continues to grow rapidly here, rates of conflict with lions and other wildlife are growing too. These conflicts are a great threat to carnivores in Africa, and how they are managed will determine the fate of the lion in Kenya.

Unfortunately, we know very little about suburban wildlife in Africa. Large carnivores that make their way into urban or suburban areas are often quickly killed by vehicles or people — leaving no time to study them. Or as the biologist Craig Packer at the University of Minnesota bluntly puts it, “Usually, urban carnivores are encountered as road kills.”

Dr. Packer, the director of the Serengeti Lion Project, a long-running study of lions in Tanzania, agrees with other experts that the best solution for lions like the ones captured in my yard may be euthanasia — despite the lion’s threatened status. The reasons are rooted in geography and fundamental aspects of lion biology.

My neighborhood, Mukoma Estate, is a partly forested, developing suburb on the south side of Nairobi. It is immediately west of Nairobi National Park, about 45 square miles of partly fenced grassland and forest less than five miles from the central business district of a city of more than three million people. Long-term residents recall lions moving through Mukoma in the past; baboons, warthogs and a leopard still call Mukoma home.

Successful urban carnivores include coyotes, foxes, raccoons and badgers — sm


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