The Pride That Fell …

The hunting of Cecil, the lion, brought a lot of publicity to the wildlife of Africa. Reams were written and bits and bytes overflowed on the Internet. Outrage, defence, abuse, sorrow … The world is yet to arrive at a consensus. Is hunting the real solution to conservation issues or is it just a euphemism for the murder of creatures unable to defend themselves from the cruelty of man hiding behind technology? 

Meanwhile, quietly, the other battles of the bush continue unabated, unresolved. The most critical war, i.e., human – wildlife conflict, continues to be fought. With the wildlife invariably losing each skirmish.

The latest tragedy is the poisoning of the Marsh Pride of lions in Maasai Mara. Some of the lions of this famous pride killed a cow belonging to a Maasai village. (This piece of news is edited. It was earlier thought that the lions had wandered outside the boundaries of the park. Now it appears that the cattle were brought into the park, illegally, that night!) In retaliation, the herdsmen poisoned the cow’s carcass and left it for the the lions to feed on. And die. A painful death. The scavengers feasted on both the carcass of  the cow and that of the lions. And died. Vultures, hyenas and countless other smaller beings. 

Already reports are pouring in. Here we share the perspective of Angela & Jonathan Scott of The Big Cat Diary fame to tell you the whole heartbreaking tale. They have been tracking this pride for years now. A pride that is almost family to them.

We all mourn the deaths of these magnificent cats and worry about the possible consequences to the species as a whole, the impact on the tourism industry of Kenya and the appalling callousness of the powers that be.

One group of people have been trying to fight this war for a number of years now. Jake Grieves-Cook was the visionary behind the creation of conservancies in Kenya. It is a model that has turned the tide for many animals in the Mara. He and a group of like-minded conservationists signed land lease agreements with the Maasai.  These tracts of land are on the periphery of the Mara and provide a critical buffer to the main reserve.

Tourist numbers are limited strictly to allow a peaceful breeding ground for the animals. Camps in conservancies have to follow strict guidelines with regards to eco-tourism. The herdsmen do not graze cattle on this land for most of the year. In return they are paid ample compensation, provided employment, villages are provided with schooling, health amenities, drinking water, etc. The cattle are allowed to graze for limited periods along carefully selected paths. It is a win-win situation. And it has begun to show results.

While it is probably one of many solutions to this apparently un-resolvable issue, it IS a solution. More important, it is a positive step that has been taken to DO something.

Earlier this year, Jake had this to say …

Yet these tragedies continue to occur. We would like to share some of our pictures of this iconic pride taken over the last two years.

It was in August of 2013 we met the Marsh Pride for the first time. We spent many hours watching them eat, play, sleep not knowing then that we would visit them again and again. We would watch the cubs grow into sub-adults, the sub-adults become parents …

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We read all through this year about Siena, one of the matriarchs of this pride being injured repeatedly. And how she had been treated again and again for her wounds. Normally there is no human interference allowed and nature takes its course. But lions are a severely endangered species and the wildlife service decided to intervene repeatedly. We were very fortunate to meet her in October this year – she walked past us, just a few feet away. Her wound looked painful but was definitely healing.

Marsh Pride-13

Now she is missing. Wildlife rangers have found remains of an adult cat and fear that it must be Siena. We can only pray that she is alive and well. Yet if its not Siena who died, another equally precious cat is dead. The loss is no less.

If there must be a fight for territory, then it should be fought on equal terms … Here one of the lionesses has a face off with a pack of hyenas that had managed to isolate her from the pride.

Marsh Pride-9

Marsh Pride-10

She won this battle. But has she survived the war?

If there must be blood and gore, then this is the kind that lions are meant to be involved in … being massacred by man is neither natural nor fair.

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These graceful cats have a greater right to Maasai Mara than all the herdsmen, tourists, bureaucrats and trophy hunters. They are the true owners of the land. We have to give them the opportunity to re-lay their claim on this beautiful continent. To live in peace forever.

Marsh Pride-8

Marsh Pride-6

Note. This post has been edited thanks to one of our readers pointing out the latest update in information on the tragedy.

As per the earliest reports that came in, we had written “Some of the lions of this famous pride “left the boundaries” of the national park and killed a cow belonging to a Maasai village.” Since then information has come in that the cow was killed within the boundaries of the national park. The herdsmen had brought in cattle, illegally, that night.