Police open case over poisoning of desert lions

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Senseless killing… Some of the three desert lions that were poisoned in the Kunene Region recently.

Windhoek

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has opened a case of illegal killing of protected game, following the discovery of three dead desert lions that died of poisoning in Kunene Region last week.

The discovery was made during the process of locating and trans-locating five desert male lions, also known as ‘The Five Musketeers’, who featured in the National Geographic documentary film, ‘Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib’.

Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta on Friday said a case has been opened with the police over the illegal killing of protected game.

No one has yet been arrested and investigations are underway. When found the culprit would also be charged with poisoning wild animals. “The ministry condemns this illegal activity of poisoning the lions and those involved will face the full wrath of the law,” Shifeta warned.

National Geographic channel aired the ‘Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib’ film again over the past weekend, ostensibly as a tribute to the dead lions and the fans, who had loved the film.

According to Tourism Supporting Conservation, Namibia’s desert-adapted lions in the Kunene Region form part of the only free roaming – outside of national parks – lion population in the world that is still growing.

The minister expressed disappointment that the lions were poisoned and killed without permission, which is illegal in terms of the country’s Nature Conservation Ordinances.

Since February, the pride of five male lions moved into the Okongwe area and was attracted to livestock at Tomakas village near the Gomatum River.

He explained that ministry officials have been in the area with Purros Conservancy Lion Rangers and Integrated Rural Development for Nature Conservation (IRDNC) staff to prevent lions from killing livestock and to trans-locate the lions to Skeleton Coast Park.
Dr Philip Stander, a lion researcher in the area, assisted them.

According to Shifeta, it must further be noted that the use of poison on animals has further negative effects on the country’s bio-diversity, as many animals in the food chain, such as scavengers and vultures, may feed on such carcasses and die as well.

“This kind of behaviour will therefore not be tolerated. The ministry has been working with communities in the area to prevent livestock killings by these lions,” he noted.

Bright lights, ultra-sound playbacks and fireworks, he said, have been successfully used to deter lions from approaching the settlement, but the number of free roaming livestock is high and continues to attract lions.

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