Nine lions were poisoned at the acclaimed Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, according to Paul Shelutete, a spokesman for Tanzania National Park.
The lions’ carcasses were found last weekend.
Three suspects are currently being held in police custody in connection to the poisonings. Motives are not yet clear, but this is the third poisoning incident in Tanzania since 2015. Nineteen lions in total have been killed by poison or shooting in community areas.
In neighboring Uganda, 11 lions were found dead from a suspected poisoning at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in April.
A veterinarian from the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (Tawiri) at the Serengeti Center, Mr. Justin Samanche, verified that the lions did in fact die from poison.
“We have realised that the lions were poisoned because their internal organs like intestines, livers and lungs went bad within a short time,” Samanche says, “We have taken samples that we be submitted to the government’s Chief Chemist and Tawiri head office for tests in order to identify the kind of poison used.”
He continued by saying that a vulture also died after eating the carcass, which is especially sad considering the bird is endangered.
Last February there was a mass poisoning of vultures and lions near Ruaha. The event resulted in 6 dead lions and 74 dead birds.
The Ruaha Carnivore Project released a statement regarding their dismay:
We are deeply saddened to report a mass poisoning incident in the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) just outside Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. We received a ‘mortality alert’ from one of our collared lions, and the team responded rapidly. When they arrived at the site, they found a devastating scene – six lions (the collared adult female, three sub-adult females and two sub-adult males) had been killed, apparently from poison as they were all found close to a scavenged cattle carcass.
This event had additional tragic consequences, with dozens of critically endangered vultures found dead or badly affected. RCP worked closely with colleagues from WCS Ruaha-Katavi, Tanzania, the Parks authorities and other local agencies, and they eventually found 74 dead vultures as well as the six lions. Thanks to the skills of the WCS team, four other sick vultures were able to be taken to the Park for treatment. Sadly, one died shortly after arrival but the others are currently doing well.
Some speculations about the mass poisonings are linked to retaliation. Because the bird is a common predator of livestock, local farmers seek at times seek revenge.
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