, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 – Three suspects have been arrested over the poisoning of two lions in Maasai Mara and are expected to be arraigned in court.
The dead lions are feared to have consumed poisoned meat.
“One of the dead lions was identified while the other one had been mauled by hyenas beyond recognition. A cub that was accompanying them was fine by this afternoon,” the Kenya Wildlife Service said on Tuesday.
A report of suspected lion poisoning was made on Sunday around Governors Camp area. The report was made by Narok County rangers and Governor’s Camp management.
One of the eight lions was reported to be showing clinical signs of poisoning which included muscle tremors, profuse diarrhoea, papillary dilation, among others. Four others were reported to be showing mild signs. The one with severe signs was treated.
The treated lion has been reported to have shown marked signs of improvement and has joined the rest of the group.
A Kenya Wildlife Service veterinary doctor conducted a post mortem examination in the presence of scenes of crime officers. Samples will be ferried to the Government Chemist for toxicological analysis.
The lions are stars of the BBC’s long-running Big Cat Diary series.
Jonathan Scott, a zoologist and one of the show’s original presenters who has been following the Marsh Pride for nearly 40 years, lamented the “end of an era”.
Among the dead lions was 17-year old female Bibi, who had become something of a celebrity during the TV series’ long and hugely popular run from 1996-2008.
A BBC wildlife crew at the scene said Bibi was found “lying on her side, foaming at the mouth, fitting and panting” before she died.
Conservationists first noticed something was wrong on Sunday morning when some of the lions, “were acting strangely collapsing and suffering from spasms,” according to a statement from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Local cattle-herders who frequently bring their animals into the Maasai Mara National Reserve to graze are suspected of the poisoning.
“Tens of thousands of cattle encroach into the reserve every night when visitors are safely out of sight,” said Scott.
The grazing cattle are hunted by lions bringing the herders into conflict with the cats.
“There is nothing shocking anymore as to what is happening in the Maasai Mara,” he added, blaming years of “appalling management” by local authorities.
In a statement Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of conservation group Wildlife Direct, condemned the poisoners as, “stupid, sick, cruel, and short-sighted people.”
Those to face charges face a maximum Sh20 million fine or life imprisonment if found guilty.
“May they rot in jail,” Kahumbu said.