Wildlife authorities in Uganda confirmed a pride of lions has been killed by suspected poisoning in one of the nation’s wildlife parks.
The carcasses and bones of eight cubs and three lionesses were found in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, just outside of Hamukungu fishing village, conservation officials announced last week. The lions were part of a pride that also had three adult males.
“It is true we lost a pride, three mothers and eight young ones, in a fishing village called Hamukungu,” said Uganda Wildlife Authority communications manager Bashir Hangi in a statement to the Daily Monitor. “We are suspecting poisoning. The information we have is that they attacked someone’s cow but we are yet to establish who exactly.”
“I was so upset,” Jimmy Kisembo, a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger and lion monitor, told National Geographic. “Everyone on the scene cried. We have no morale.”
Kisembo adds that several of the carcasses had been cleaned by hyenas, but his team is working now to find a way to protect the remaining lions.
Located in western Uganda about five hours from Kampala, the park is 1,978 square kilometers (764 square miles) in size and home to more than 100 lions including the famous tree-climbing populations.
The magazine reports the remains were sent to a nearby town to test for an insecticide called aldicarb. Also known as temik, the extremely toxic insecticide is typically used on crops like cotton, potatoes, and peanuts in defense against aphids, spider mites, and other pests.
It’s not the first time lions have been killed by poison in the conflict between cattle herders and the predatory big cats. Earlier this year, the carcasses of six lions were discovered in Tanzania near the carcass of a cow in a suspected poisoning. In 2015, three lions from Kenya’s famous Marsh Pride also died from poisoning in what some have reported as “retribution killings”. The issue spans across continents, too. Last month, this graphic image circulated the Internet after an Indonesian village killed a Sumatran tiger after it reportedly encroached on village space. In the United States, cattle depredation historically initiated 90 percent of mountain lion kills over the last three decades.
The issue is a convoluted one and solutions are varied. Conservationists suggest voluntarily relocating people living within close quarters of reserves or changing husbandry practices to reduce conflicts.
For now, authorities in Uganda say they are taking the suspected poisoning very seriously and will continue investigating the lions’ cause of death and work to further protect those still alive.
“We have commissioned investigations into the matter," the commissioner for Wildlife Conservation in the Ministry Of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Dr Akankwasah Barirega said. "We shall use the evidence gathered to prosecute and if convicted decisively punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”