Why Do People Kill Lions?

About the Author

Paul Thomson worked with African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi for a year before moving to Washington D.C. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul… More

In the past two decades, more than half of Africa’s lions have been wiped out. As Bernard Kissui wrote in his lion blog, the remaining populations of the African lion are restricted to small and isolated protected areas, where, despite concerted protection, they are subject to unusually high mortality due to close interactions with an ever increasing human population outside protected areas.

“One of the main threats to lions is from people killing lions after their livestock has been killed,” Shivani Bhalla, who I’m with in the Samburu Heartland, told me. She was trying to put it in perspective for me.

“Think about it. To a pastoralist, his cattle is everything. It’s as valuable to him as your home or your job is to you. If something came in the middle of the night and took all of that from you, wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you do something about it?

“They are not malicious people. I think if we can reduce the number of livestock killed by lions and prove that living lions can be valuable to them, they’ll stop these revenge-style killings.”

[caption id="attachment_396" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A Tanzanian lion killed in retaliation for killing a cow."]A research lion killed in retaliation for killing a cow.[/caption]

The long-term conservation of Africa’s lions will depend on resolving conflicts with humans. People may be part of the problem, but they’re also essential in the solution.