NAIROBI, Kenya — Two lions attacked and killed one person among a group of men grazing cattle in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park at night, police said, highlighting the increasing conflict between wildlife and human communities as the capital city expands.
The group of herders was attacked around 2 a.m. and wardens were able to rescue seven people, said Kenya Wildlife Service ranger Martin Omondi. However, an 18-year-old man was killed by the lions and most of his body was eaten, the report said.
Lion attacks are not common, but as Nairobi is experiencing a boom in apartment and road construction, the city’s expanding population is putting heavy pressure on the wildlife near the city. Nairobi National Park is the only wildlife park in the world that lies within a country’s capital city.
Acting Kenya Wildlife Service Director General Julius Kimani said the men shouldn’t have been grazing cattle in the park, which is restricted, especially at night.
A prolonged drought that has affected half of Kenya’s 47 counties has forced the Maasai and other livestock-keeping communities to sneak their cattle into the park at night in search of pasture to save their animals, said Kimani.
Nairobi National Park, across 45 square miles (117 square kilometers), is home to endangered black rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and birdlife. The animals roam just six miles (10 kilometers) from downtown Nairobi, which lies north of the park.
The government has begun construction of a railway that will traverse part of the reserve. Conservationists have opposed the railway line, saying it will further damage the wildlife habitat.
Noise from the construction is making lions leave the park through the southern unfenced border, causing them to run into humans more often, say conservationists.
The rate at which lions are being killed means they may disappear from Kenya, warn wildlife experts. In the past 50 years Kenya’s lion population has dropped from 30,000 to about 2,000 today, according to wildlife experts. The lions were first decimated by big game hunting and now their numbers are declining because of a combination of poaching and human’s encroaching on their habitat.
This story has been corrected to show the title of the Kenya Wildlife Service chief is Director General and his last name is Kimani.