Relocating some Serengeti lions is just a first step

24Jan 2020
The Guardian
Relocating some Serengeti lions is just a first step

WILDLIFE authorities have decided to relocate a total of 36 lions from the Serengeti National Park which initial reports say they are a pride, but those familiar with wildlife scenes would doubt if lion prides are that big.

Still they were numerous enough not to find wild food and pushed to feed on the margins of their preserves with repeated attacks on humans in nearby villages, while feeding on livestock.

Reports citing top officials of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) did not say how many people had been killed or hut in the last six months or less for instance, and how many heads of cattle may have been mauled in the process. Chances are that there would be one or two attacks and the siren is sounded far and wide, in which case the problem is repeated attacks rather than the casualties per se. Conservationists were awash with explanations for this situation, that the lions have been affected by encroaching human activity.

There is for that matter an oft repeated line that lions increasingly are seen as an endangered species, and the batch that is to be moved – most likely there is more than one pride as they don’t live in herds - live on the edge of the safari hub of East Africa. TAWIRI officials said 11 of the lions had already been captured and 20 are set for relocation at the Burigi Chato national park, but the wildlife agency was still scratching the head for ideas on where to put the other 16. That admission doesn’t square up with the idea of an endangered species, as in that context each national park would be phoning to get a few.

For once, other remarks by officials showed that the real concern in shifting the lions was elsewhere, not conservation as activists would rush to assert. They admit that usually when lions attack people the right step to take is to shoot them, as habits have a way of repeating over time but then the concerned group of lions was far too big for this kind for measure, so they mooted relocation to other parks around the country. As Burigi Chato is new it may do with some lions.

Beyond the act of relocation, the rest of the report at least as figured in some of the leading dailies was concerned with the narrowing of the lions’ living space owing to ‘human activities,’ instead of simply taking note of economic activity or agro-sector expansion.  It is a mental contention as to how far space will be shared out in future as the population is increasing, and conservationists are fed up with ‘human activity’ encroaching on wildlife space. Hard decisions will have to be taken, beyond the recent revocation of 700,000 hectares (1.8m acres) for settlements and farming, unless technology and industry removes large numbers of peasants from their villages.

There will be a certain amount of give and take, as not all extra rural people stand to be enabled to settle in what is now conservation land, and definitely not all conservation land will remain as it is. That is why activists will have to improve the mode of assessment of the situation, not looking at it entirely from a conservation perspective. Government too has a difficult task to bring about effective industrialization, to

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