ILKEEK-LEMEDUNGI, Kenya – Crouching at dawn in the savannahs tall grass, the lions tore through the flesh of eight goats. Dogs barked, women screamed and men with the rank of warrior in this village of Maasai tribesman gathered their spears.
Kenya Wildlife Service rangers responded to the attack, but arrived without a veterinarian and no way to tranquilize the eight lions and remove them from Ilkeek-LemedungI, a settlement of mud and stone homes not far from the edges of Nairobi National Park.
In the end, the Maasai men – who come from a tribe renowned for its hunting skills – grew tired of waiting, said Charity Kingangir, whose fathers goats were attacked Wednesday. The men speared the lions, killing six: two adult lionesses, two younger lions and two cubs.
The lions had killed eight goats, each worth about $60.
Wednesdays killings highlight the growing threat to Kenyas wildlife posed by the rapid expansion of its capital.
A week earlier, residents from another village on Nairobis outskirts killed a leopard that had eaten a goat. Last month, wildlife service agents shot and killed a lion moving around the Nairobi suburb of Karen. On Thursday, three lions attacked and killed three goats outside Nairobi National Park. Rangers chased the lions back to the park.
This week, the Kenya Wildlife Service sent out a public notice pleading with people who encounter wild animals to desist from killing them.
It summed up the problem in a posting on its Facebook page: Do animals invade human space, or do humans invade animal space? How can we find tolerance for our wild neighbors? And how can we humanely remove them when they get a bit too close?
As Nairobi enjoys a boom in apartment and road construction, an expanding population center is putting heavy pressure on the animals, especially big cats. Nairobi National Park is the only wildlife park in the world that lies in a countrys capital.
Killing lions is a crime in Kenya, but those who lose livestock to big cats frequently retaliate. About 100 lions are killed each year, and the countrys lion population has dropped to about 2,000.
Lions, especially ones who leave Nairobi National Park, which is not fully fenced in, are at risk. After Wednesdays killings, the park had 37 left, KWS estimates.
As Nairobi continues to grow, small towns that cropped up on its outskirts expand, fueled by the demand for low-cost housing from the citys working class.
People are settling in traditional migratory corridors that wildlife from Nairobis park have long used to reach the plains to the south around Tanzanias Mount Kilimanjaro, or to travel to Kenyas Maasai Mara in the countrys southwest, said Peter M. Ngau, a professor in the department of urban and regional planning at the University of Nairobi.
The herbivores migrate from the park in search of pasture during the dry season and the carnivores follow, KWS official Ann Kahihia said.
Unfortunately, the carnivores do not know the difference between livestock and wild animals. Once they get livestock, they just kill them, Kahihia said.
If parliament approves, the Kenyan government will start compensating people whose livestock are maimed or killed as an incentive to spare the attacking animals.