One Of Kenya’s Oldest Lions, Loonkiito, Has Been Killed By Herders, Including 10 Others, As Human-Wildlife Conflicts Rise

Photo credit: Philip J. Briggs 

Shocking news about the tragic killing of 11 lions by goat herders was recently revealed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Among the victims of what was believed to be the result of human-wildlife conflict, was Loonkiito, one of the world’s oldest lions.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Loonkiito (2004 – 2023), the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa,” Lion Guardians shared in a post on its Facebook page. Reportedly, the 19-year-old lion was speared to death by a rancher after wandering into a livestock pen on May 10th.

“He was a symbol of resilience and coexistence,” the nonprofit organization continued in the tribute to Loonkiito, further stating that his legacy will live on in his many offspring.

“The end of a drought is habitually marked by an uptick in human-lion conflict as wild prey recover and become more difficult to hunt. In desperation, lions often turn to take livestock. Since livestock owners lost so many of their animals to the drought, they are particularly vigilant in watching over their remaining animals,” Kenya Wildlife Service explained in a statement on its Facebook page, Unfortunately, Loonkiito was caught up in this dynamic as he was starving and jumped into a corral in the middle of the night.”

Horrifically, six lions were also killed near Amboseli National Park the following day. The lions had reportedly killed 11 goats and one dog the previous night.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, as over the last week, four more lions have been killed resulting in a total of 10 lions killed in the Amboseli ecosystem,” noted KWS, not including Loonkiito. KWS subsequently held a meeting with members of the local community in an effort to find lasting solutions that address the conflict while protecting both human lives and wildlife.

The discussions centered on exploring ways to minimize the risk of human-wildlife conflict, including developing early warning systems to alert communities to the presence of wildlife in their vicinity. Further discussions centered on the wider picture of exploring human-wildlife conflict in the context of community livelihoods and benefit sharing towards a harmonious coexistence in the open community and wildlife landscapes.

Sadly, there are only an estimated 23,000 lions remaining in the wild. This makes finding a solution to this tragic issue more urgent than ever.

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