By Emmanuel Koro
The lions of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area horrifically killed three school children this month, drawing sympathy worldwide. This put a spotlight on the human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania and is a ‘declaration’ of war on the bereaved Maasai local community.
“The local community, together with the bereaved families have vowed to hunt down the lions and kill them if the Tanzanian Government authorities don’t act swiftly to deal with the killer-lions,” said a well-placed top hunting company director in that country who spoke on conditions of anonymity. “Alternatively, they will kill them through poisoning.”
The bereaved Tanzanian community seems to have support for its revengeful feelings towards the killer-lions.
“I support those who want to hunt and kill the lions as long as international hunting is not benefiting the local poor communities,” said Mr Jerry Gotora, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Painted Dog Conservation, former Deputy Chairman of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and a fierce international fighter for the SADC communities’ rights to benefit from wildlife, including hunting.
The Tanzanian police confirmed that the three deceased children were from the same family. Ndoskoy Sangau(9), Sangau Metui (10)and Sanka Saning’o(10) were savagely killed by lions] between Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park which are both near Olduvai Gorge (a famous photographic area). There is no international hunting in the area and communities are not directly benefiting from wildlife. Among the killer lions was a collared lion being researched, similar to the way Cecil the lion of Zimbabwe was being monitored. Cecil the lion was killed by American hunter, Dr Walter J. Palmer in July 2015. This time the killing roles have been switched. Cecil’s unnamed cousin in Tanzania, together with other lions killed not one but three human beings.
The fourth child, Kiyambwa Namuyata(11) reportedly escaped with minor injuries. He saved his life by climbing a tree. The dead children attended school at Ngoile Primary School, Orbalbal Ward, Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, together with the fourth child who survived the lion attack.
Meanwhile, the Tanzania-based international hunting company owners who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the affected Ngorongoro residents would like the Government to “eliminate the future threat by killing the responsible lions.”
The Tanzanian Government has in the past translocated and not killed lions that have killed people. Last year, Tanzania relocated 36 lions from the Serengeti National Park after they had killed humans and livestock adjacent to the National Park.
“Should the Tanzanian Government not eliminate the lions, the Maasai’s Morans (Warriors) will spear any lion they see in that territory to destroy lion population in the area,” said the top Tanzanian hunting company owners who prefer to remain anonymous saying ‘our country is very sensitive.’ “We don’t see this going unpunished by the bereaved community. Even if the authorities can prevent them from hunting down the lions, the affected community can still easily kill the lions by killing a cow and lacing it with poison and nobody will ever know who did it.”
This unfolding human-wildlife conflict seems to have all the makings of a lion conservation disaster.
However, conservationists suggest that the introduction of international hunting and the wildlife and habitat conservation incentives that hunting brings should be considered as a solution to the problem.
Dr. Morris Mtsambiwa, Former CEO of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area that has the biggest elephant population on earth said, “To make matters worse the people who bear the brunt of this problem least benefit from the exploitation of wildlife resources. In the end, we have a situation where custodians of wildlife don’t view those resources as assets but liabilities resulting in revenge killings. Then the situation spirals out of control placing wildlife agencies at loggerheads with communities who live in and around protected areas.”
He said that there was a need to take measures to reduce the conflict between humans and wildlife.
According to the last census conducted 10 years ago, Tanzania had over 16 000 lions.
“Hunting has therefore the capacity to generate revenue to support both the people and the animals,” said Dr. Mtsambiwa.
A Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism official is yet to respond to questions on the loss of young lives and whether or not the Government would compensate the bereaved families. A well-known wildlife expert from that country refused to comment on the issue saying, “I deal with elephants, not lions.”
This makes one wonder if there is a culture of fear to answer questions involving the government in Tanzania and sensitive issues such as the loss of human life to wildlife.
Elsewhere, a South Africa-based NGO, the African Community Conservationist has called upon all humankind-loving people worldwide to join hands and raise money to compensate the bereaved Sangau family.
“When Cecil the lion was killed in July 2015 by Dr. Palmer in Zimbabwe the animal rights groups raised more than one hundred thousand British pounds in one hour and much more later and still do. Therefore, we are greatly challenged to raise money to compensate the bereaved Tanzanian family for the emotional pain, stress and material loss of three children whose lives were needlessly cut short by lions. They were looking for the lost wealth they had ever known – cattle. They never benefited from that which killed them – wildlife. The need to raise funds for the bereaved family is a test case for the world to prove that the loss of three human lives is above that of a single animal (Cecil the Lion) that attracted a lot of funding and still does today through movie-making and other related projects.”
Ms. Netshivhongweni can be contacted via the African Community Conservationists website: https//conserveafrica.net.
The President of South Africa’s pro-sustainable use environmental NGO, True Green Alliance, Mr. John Rance said, “I found out from information provided by my Tanzanian sources of information that the Tanzanian Government doesn’t compensate for the loss of human life to wildlife attacks. The bereaved family gets Tshs 1 million (US$430) as burial assistance not compensation for each deceased member.”
Conservationists worldwide and international hunters are also following the story on the killing of young lives by lions with great concern.
“Much as I love African lions, they are the worst, most awful, horrible KING of beasts- the worst of all beasts,” said US-based Lion Conservationist, Mr. John J Jackson III. “When they are not eating each other and livestock, they attack and eat people. They do not eat vegetables or house cat food. Tanzania has a history of thousands of lion attacks. Though an estimated 200 people a year are attacked by wild animals in Tanzania, a third of those are lion attacks and nearly 20% of those eaten are children less than ten years of age. The killing of three children in Ngorongoro while the fourth surviving child watched fearfully from a tree he climbed was horrific. Those of us devoted to saving lion where we can, must know the nature of the beast and deal with that or otherwise expedite its demise.”
Sadly, Western animal rights groups that don’t care about wildlife management challenges in Africa are already expediting the demise of lions and other species through their continued unjustified calls for the ban on international hunting trophy imports into Western countries, which are Africa’s lucrative international hunting markets.
It’s against this background that in July this year, the Southern African Community Leaders wrote a letter seeking the assistance of US Congressperson Terri Sewell to remove Section 436 from a Bill that the State of Connecticut in the US plans to introduce to ban international trophy hunting imports of elephant and lion from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The current language in Section 436 would result in the undermining of the rights and livelihoods of millions of rural Africans and destruction of our successful conservation programmes,” said the Southern African Community Leaders who represent millions of rural Africans in nine SADC countries.
First published in bulawayo24.com
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and development issues in Africa