Story by ODHIAMBO ORLALE
Daily Nation: 2/19/2008
The Kenya Wildlife Service is to set up a task force to study how to protect, conserve and promote the over 2,000 lions in the country.
The team will be made up of experts from within KWS and the tourism industry who will also study why the carnivore’s population had declined from 10,000 in the 1970s to 2,729 in 2002 and to 2,280 in 2004.
Lions are spread out in the country’s national parks, game reserves and private conservancies as follows: Narok and Kajiado districts – 825; Tsavo – 675; Laikipia – 230; Meru – 80; Samburu and Isiolo – 100 and Northern Kenya – 100.
Yesterday, the KWS director, Dr Julius Kip’ngetich, said: “Large carnivores are in decline throughout the country and Kenya’s carnivores are no exception.
“Despite their reduced population, large carnivores still cause problems for pastoralists and farmers, for conservation managers.”
The director noted that predation on livestock by large carnivores was a serious problem because it had a major impact on the livelihoods of pastoralists and farmers.
In a speech read by Mr Benjamin Kavu, Mr Kip’ngetich told participants at a workshop on national action planning for lion and spotted hyena, that the high decline of lions had a lot to do with the human/wildlife conflict.
In a speech read by the senior assistant director, the KWS boss said: “Lions also play a critical role in Kenya’s tourism industry for lion presence in an area is considered an indicator of its wild and natural integrity.
“The lion is thus one of the flagship species of Kenya for research and tourism, and indeed one of the Big Five.”
The other major wildlife that attract tourists to the country are the leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.
The director reminded the participants that the African lion was classified as vulnerable by experts, and had been extirpated from at least 30 per cent of their historical range in East and Southern Africa.
Said the director: “As is often the case in conservation, there is limited data on status, population trend and ecology. However, Kenya’s population of lions was estimated at 2,749 in 2002 and 2,280 in 2004.”