Incident at Big Life Foundation Kenya Headquarters, 13th May 2023
Attributable to Richard Bonham, Executive Chairman - Big Life Foundation Kenya
Mbirikani, Kenya - Six lions have been killed on Mbirikani Ranch, in the Greater Amboseli Ecosystem of southern Kenya, on the morning of Saturday May 13th.
The incident unfolded after a group of nine subadult lions broke into a livestock enclosure near Mbirikani town on the night of May 12th, killing 12 goats and a dog. Big Life Foundation’s community wildlife rangers responded immediately, pushing the lions away from the homestead. The lions then moved into Big Life’s fenced headquarters nearby.
Big Life staff were able to push three lions out of the premises during the night and they moved away from the town to safety, but the other six remained inside the compound overnight. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrived on the scene in the morning, and a vet was mobilised from Tsavo Conservation Area to assess the potential for translocation. In the meantime, the preliminary decision was made to leave the lions inside the compound until the following night when they could leave safely under cover of darkness. The Kenya Police Service was also on the scene to ensure human safety throughout the day.
Over the course of the day, a crowd continued to build, and tensions spilled over as dozens of people broke through the compound fence, spearing all six lions. Many members of the crowd were armed with spears, and any intervention by KWS, the Kenya Police Service, or Big Life would have risked escalation of an extremely volatile situation, and almost certainly resulted in human injury or death.
While we are relieved there were no human injuries, this isolated but tragic incident is a harsh illustration of the challenges in ensuring co-existence between human and wildlife. Big Life remains committed to the wellbeing of both humans and animals in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem and will continue to work with the broader community who supports conservation initiatives as we recover from this event.
This incident exemplifies the ongoing need for Big Life’s predator protection programs. The number of lions killed by humans on Mbirikani Ranch has dropped 97% since Big Life started a livestock compensation program (known as the Predator Compensation Fund) in 2003, along with other complementary initiatives. In the one and a half years before the Predator Compensation Fund launched, at least 31 lions were killed on Mbirikani. In the 20 years since, until today’s incident, only 13 have been killed.
The situation is being taken extremely seriously by Kenya Wildlife Service. The KWS Director General and Chairman of the Board both arrived by helicopter within a matter of hours. While the incident is under investigation by Kenya Wildlife Service, Big Life is unable to comment further at this time.