Monday, May 5, 2008

Poisoned lions

The opening sentence of The Trouble With Lions reads “In 2005, Canadian veterinary students traveling with me in Uganda were horrified to learn that villagers in Queen Elizabeth National Park had poisoned two lions”. There are several references to the poisoning of lions, and other animals, throughout the text, and no one should be under any illusions that this sort of activity is going to stop any time soon. Recent reports from Kenya’s Maasai Mara are of grave concern to both the herders (the landowners) whose livestock use the area, and to conservationists, tour operators and of course tourists. Since the self-destructive events of the elections in late 2007, and the mayhem that followed for months, tourists have stayed away in droves. This has led to a virtual collapse of the tourist sector, and naturally to a massive decline in revenues. The lack of income has in turn created an impossible situation for those funding agencies that were trying to help by paying cash sums to herders whose cattle and goats or sheep were killed by lions and leopards. Without tourist dollars they have no source of funds.

It is not just the large predators that have suffered. I found this story in a blog managed by Wildlife Disease Digest which I check regularly here. This one was dated 30th April. and tells briefly how two lions died in Kenya's famed Masai Mara. The full story appeared in Britain’s Daily Telegraph and tells how a hippo that had died after consuming the insecticide carbofuran was in turn eaten by lions. Even with the poison diluted to that extent four lions developed marked signs of intoxication, which with this compound involve nervous signs. Two of the lions died. A telling photo taken in the Mara shows a lion whose legs are not working properly, and more details of the story can be found on the Telegraph site of 29th April here.

It is not just lions that are taking a hit. Birds are highly susceptible to even the tiniest doses of carbofuran, sold as Furadan in East Africa, and there have been a number of incidents of secondary poisoning of vultures. The largest known incident occurred in April 2004 near the town of Athi River, just 30 kilometres outside Nairobi, when 187 vultures, mostly white-backed vultures, died. Many hyaenas also died.

Vultures and hyaenas have also died in the same way in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National park, and these included an entire clan of twelve animals near the village of Kasenyi, on the shores of Lake George.This was in sharp contrast to the scene in 2007 when we watched over 100 of the birds, as well as several eagles, and a magnificent saddle-billed stork, foraging over ground where they had found a large number of grasshoppers.

The Wildlife Disease Digest blog has many other stories about wildlife and their diseases from around the world. It is one to keep any eye on.

No comments: