BY PROF. WOLFGANG H. THOME, PH.D., ETN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT http://www.eturbonews.com/52162/lions-near-serengeti-poisoned
A pastoralist is now on the most wanted list by police and security organizations in and around the Ikona Wildlife Management Area, which adjoins the main Serengeti National Park, after poisoning 7 lions in retaliation to losing one of his cattle.
The dead lions were found in close vicinity to each other after eating poisoned meat, and according to one source, a bottle containing a suspect liquid was found nearby.
The seven, according to information received, are part of a larger pride of lions which previously numbered up to 16, dealing a heavy blow to conservation efforts as lion numbers have progressively reduced over the past years, in part as a result of poisoning incidents.
Reactions were swift and furious with government sources and wildlife managers unequivocally condemning the act and vowing to bring the culprit to book while the conservation fraternity at large lamented the loss of such a large number of lions in just once incident.
Said the Arusha-based source who passed the information: “This is really unforgivable. If someone loses cattle to lions, more often than not it is sheer negligence on the owner’s part. Either it is the absence of herders or the lack of proper enclosures at night. In some instances, the cattle are also illegally driven into game areas where they should not be, and from what I have been told, this has happened here. Still, the owner could have sought compensation, but the idiot goes ahead and poisons seven lions out of 16.
“These lions are the core attraction for tourists visiting the game area. This will give us such bad publicity; besides the poaching of elephant, we now have lions killed, too, just as WTM [World Travel Market] starts in London. I am telling you, this is not what Tanzania stands for. The culprit must be found, taken to court, and given a very long deterrent sentence, but that also will not bring the lions back.
“We are already struggling this year with totally unjustified Ebola fears, imagine, there is no way you come to Tanzania for safari and you come even near that thing, but such bad news will make the round, and tourism may suffer more. Government and TANAPA have to do more to educate people that lions alive will be worth much more than some cattle lost. Cattle can be paid for, lions cannot,” venting his clear anger and frustration over the incident.
The Tanzanian government, after years of inactivity or mere lip service, has of late stepped up anti-poaching measures to protect the wildlife heritage on which much of the country’s tourism income hinges. In particular, in the Selous, previously a killing zone for elephants, no poaching incidents have been reported now for several weeks as a result of increased aerial and ground patrols, hopefully paving the way for the herds to slowly add numbers again over the next couple of breeding cycles.
Most visitors come to Tanzania for safaris, rather than beach holidays, representing the high-spending segment of the market and earning the country a much higher average income per visitor than destinations in the region depending on both beach and safari holidays. Tanzania is represented at WTM by the Tanzania Tourism Board and a large number of private sector exhibitors.