FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
13 May 2010
Kenya’s lions on the brink of extinction: three more lions poisoned in Masai Mara
Conservationists have warned that Kenya’s lion population is in danger of becoming extinct within a few years if nothing is done to stem a wave of poisonings that have already left at least eight of the charismatic predators dead in recent weeks.
In the latest incident, the carcasses of two lionesses and a young male were found late last month near Lemek, apparently killed in retaliation for attacking domestic cattle. In their investigation, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrested a local cattle herder who admitted he had used a pesticide to poison the lions along with his neighbours.
The suspect showed investigators a container with the remains of the poison he had used to lace a cow carcass that the lions ultimately ate. The container had traces of a pink powder that the authorities suspect is a form of carbofuran – a deadly pesticide commonly used in the horticultural industry. KWS has sent samples of both the lion carcasses and the pink substance for toxicological tests to confirm what it was that killed the predators.
KWS took the suspect to the police but despite the evidence and his admission of guilt, he was released shortly after. According to anonymous sources, a local politician intervened on his behalf.
This incident brings to 8 the number of confirmed lions poisonings in recent weeks across southern Kenya; the other five occurring near the Amboseli National Park.
In their National Conservation and Management strategy for Lions and Hyenas, the Kenya Wildlife Service estimates that only 1,970 lions remain across the country, and said “poisoning is perhaps the greatest threat to predators and scavenging birds”.
KWS confirms that 2010 has started off badly for lions – in addition to 8 confirmed poisonings, more than 10 other lions have been killed in other circumstances; A lion was shot in or near Buffalo Springs Reserve, Samburu District, by local police, while others have been speared near Amboseli National Park
The situation is now so serious that the conservationist and chairman of WildlifeDirect Dr Richard Leakey has again called for the government to take action.
“The future of tourism in Kenya is at risk if dangerous pesticides like Carbofuran (sold locally as Furadan) remain on the market. Time and again, we’ve seen these substances used to slaughter our national heritage and destroy one of our greatest economic assets. Yet the authorities continually fail to follow up cases of abuse and prosecute the culprits. The Kenyan government must show that it is serious and take swift action to ban deadly pesticides like Furadan and enforce the law.
“If we fail to put a stop to poisonings, our lions could go extinct in a matter of years; a catastrophic loss for anyone who cares about our national heritage, but also a devastating blow to the tourism industry that currently brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy. ”
Carbofuran is the active ingredient in pesticides most widely used to kill wildlife such as lions and leopards. It is also used to kill fish and birds for human consumption. Carbofuran is a neurotoxin that is deadly to fish, birds, cats and even humans. Kenyan conservationists are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to ban the pesticide due to it’s environmental impacts. It is not permitted for use in the European Union where authorization for its’ use was withdrawn in 2007. Nor can it be used in the USA where it is produced due to a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that revoked all tolerance for carbofuran residues on food. This means that carbofuran residues must not be found on locally produced and imported food items. The decision was implemented on the 31st December 2009.These decisions could affect Kenyan food exports if the product remains in use on export crops. In addition, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently conducted the risk and value assessments for carbofuran and its end-uses on food and feed crops and also recommends a ban of the product. Conservationists in USA have conducted an online petition and gathered more than 80,000 signatures urging the Kenyan Government to do the same.
After incidents of lion poisoning in Kenya became public in 2008, the manufacturers of Furadan, FMC withdrew Furadan from Kenyan shelves. However, the product is still not officially banned and can be found in some agro-vet stores. The active ingredient, carbofuran, is still available in other over-the-counter pesticides.
WildlifeDirect is a conservation charity registered in USA and Kenya, and based in Nairobi. We enable conservationists at the front lines to tell their stories and raise awareness about their work through over 80 blogs from the field on the website platform http://wildlifedirect.org. The Chairman of WildlifeDirect is Dr. Richard Leakey and the Executive Director is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Visit http://wildlifedirect.org for more information
Furadan: WildlifeDirect is campaigning for the de-registration or total ban on the active ingredient of Furadan, carbofuran in Kenya due to the threats it poses to users, consumers and wildlife. This pesticide threatens the survival of lions, vultures, fish species and many other mammals and birds In Kenya. Furadan is produced in USA by FMC and is sold locally by Juanco SPS as an agricultural insecticide. For more information on our campaign against wildlife poisoning visit http://stopwildlifepoisoning.wildlifedirect.org
KWS is the government body responsible for wildlife conservation in Kenya. For more information visit http://www.kws.org
For other photographs or more information please contact Paula Kahumbu [email protected], or call 0722685106, or 020 2602463