Suburban Lions Present a Conundrum

aller animals with generalist diets that allow them to eat just about anything. But lions, weighing 240 to 600 pounds and eating only meat, certainly do not meet these criteria; the Mukoma lions were a direct threat to people, and they killed numerous warthogs, several dogs and goats, and two young giraffes.

But it is unlikely that they were lured here by the availability of such prey. From limited monitoring by the group Friends of Nairobi National Park, Dr. Packer says that lionesses are probably living and having cubs outside the park because there is a large lion population inside it — including a number of adult males that pose a risk of infanticide.

“If lions are indeed at high density within the park,” said Laurence G. Frank of theMuseum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Kenyan research group Living With Lions, “as long as she can get through the fence, she is likely to move the cubs back out. This situation is likely to arise again in the near future, creating an ongoing management problem and continuing threat of someone being killed or injured.” So returning the lioness and her cubs to the park was not a solution.

Human-lion conflict occurs often in more rural settings, and people are advised to not kill carnivores or they will face prosecution. Thus, under pressure to “not kill any lions themselves,” Patrick Omondi, head of species conservation at the Kenya Wildlife Service, told me that the captured lions were taken to Meru National Park, about 200 miles northeast of Nairobi.

Carnivore biologists collectively cringed. Again, Dr. Packer put it bluntly: “Sending them to Meru is a death sentence.”

The technique, translocation, is an important tool for the management of carnivores in networks of inten


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