Kenya: Lions kill 1 person grazing livestock in city park

NAIROBI, Kenya — Two lions attacked and killed one person among a group of men grazing cattle in Kenya's Nairobi National Park at night, police said in a report underscoring the increasing conflict between wildlife and human communities as the capital city expands.

A Kenya Wildlife Service ranger reported the group was attacked around 2 a.m. and wardens were able to rescue seven people. However, an 18-year-old man was killed by the lions and most of his body was eaten, the report said.

Lion attacks are not common, but as Kenya's capital enjoys a boom in apartment and road construction, an expanding population center is putting heavy pressure on Kenya's famed wildlife, especially its big cats. Nairobi National Park is the only wildlife park in the world that lies within a country's capital city.

Acting Kenya Wildlife Service Chairman Julius Mwangi said the men shouldn't have been grazing cattle in the park, which is restricted, especially at night.

A prolonged drought that has affected half of Kenya's 47 counties has forced the Maasai and other livestock-keeping communities to sneak their cattle into the park at night in search of pasture to save their animals, said Mwangi.

Several documentaries have shown lions as fearful of the Maasai warriors who roam freely within the park with their cattle. It is believed that is because the Maasai will hunt the lions down when their animals are attacked.

Mwangi said lions can recognize Maasai warriors from the spears they carry and the red wraps they wear and will stay away. At night, however, the Maasai wear jackets for the cold and the lions may not have recognized them.

"When the pride of lions pounced on the people they just knew they were human beings," Mwangi said.

Nairobi National Park's 45 square miles (117 square kilometers) are home to endangered black rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and birdlife. The animals roam just six miles (10 kilometers) from downtown Nairobi, which lies north of the park.

The government has announced plans to build a railway that will traverse part of the reserve. Conservationists have opposed the railway line, saying it will further damage the wildlife habitat.

Conservationists have said noise from construction is making lions leave the park through the southern unfenced border, causing them to run into humans more often. Conservationist fear that the rate at which lions are being killed means they may disappear from Kenya. Conservationists estimate that the lion population in Kenya has dropped from 30,000 50 years ago to around 2,000 now due to killings, both from poaching and the closer proximity to human communities.

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