Ritual killings could drive Kenyan lions to extinction: experts

NAIROBI, May 23, 2006 (AFP) – Kenya’s famed lion prides could be driven to extinction because ritual killings by tribal warriors are decimating their ranks in and around the country’s protected game reserves, wildlife experts warned Tuesday. The findings were immediately dismissed by members of the Maasai tribe, which is blamed for most of the deaths among the country’s dwindling lion population.

“It appears as if the Maasailand lions are in such serious decline that the entire population may disappear within very few years,” the experts warned in a new study.

The study, by the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project and experts from the University of California, squarely accused the Maasai for the loss of the big cats.

“Although the (lion) population seem to be in rapid decline, the number of killings has been increasing annually,” it said. “It would appear that people are putting greater effort into lion killing.”

Since 1998, at least 195 lions had been killed in and near southern Kenya’s Amboseli and Tsavo preserves and the Nairobi National Park, reducing the confirmed number of lions to 2,010, the experts said.

Of those, 20 had been killed this year alone and the trend appeared to growing.

The study, entitled “Lion K