Hunters Resources

Case Study of a Man-Eating Lion Killing 35 People

Dr. Rolf D. Baldus, who directs the GTZ Wildlife Program in Tanzania, just completed a case study of lions killing 35 people in 8 villages in the Rufiji District within 20 months. No, this is not a Ghost in the Darkness. It surpasses the Tsalvo man-eaters which killed 28 people in 1898-99 portrayed in that movie. In this case, 35 children, men and women were taken, many out of their huts, killed and eaten by lions between August 2002 and April 2004 within a very short distance of the capital Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania has the largest population of lion in Africa and has a long history of man-eaters. Dr. Rolf Baldus cites the report of records of game ranger George Rushby in 1965 that 1,500 people were killed by lions between 1932 and 1946 in one area not more than 2,000 km. in size. More recently, 42 people were killed in 1986 in the Tunduru District. Even the district game officer was killed. Between July 1994 and September of the following year, 29 people were killed and 17 injured in Liwale District. Between 16 January 1997 and November of that same year, 17 people were killed in Mkuranga District which is not more than 50 km. from the city center of Dar es Salaam. In the Lindu District at least 24 people were killed and a similar figure injured in just one cluster of hamlets near the airport near the coast in 1999/2000.

The most serious one lion case is that of the 35 people killed and 10 injured in the Mkongo ward between August 2002 and April 2004, cited above. Dr. Baldus made a study of those killings. The most frequent method of attack was the lion forcing its way through the wall of a hut or jumping on and through the hut roof. Frequently, the lion killed both persons in the hut but normally left the second person behind. The second most common style of attack is jumping up on people who are watching over planted fields atop of platforms called “Madungus”. In effect the people are presenting themselves as live bait, Baldus notes.

Baldus also opposes the Kenya proposal that lions be placed on Appendix 1 of CITES. He quotes Craig Packer that has researched lion in the Serengeti for 26 years as stating that the “Kenya listing (proposal) is irresponsible.” There is no documented decline in lion numbers over the recent past. The lion population in Tanzania alone may be greater than the lion population estimates for all of Africa cited by Kenya.

Dr. Baldus states that the Chardonnet lion population estimate (2002) completed under the auspices of Conservation Force and IGF is the most “systemic and comprehensive study” done on the status of African lions. That study shows a lion population estimate for Tanzania of 14, 432 (10,409 minimum and 18,215 maximum). Baldus feels that even the Chardonnet Study is conservative because most figures for the protected areas in Tanzania are underestimates. On that point, he is correct. We too consider the estimates conservative as stated in the study. Though the study is more inclusive than others, it is only meant to be a contribution to the study of the status of African lions, not an end in itself.

Baldus states that “lion breed ‘like rabbits’ (over 20 percent per year).” For an proven example he cites the Serengeti that “lost one third of its population due an apparent mutation of the Canine Disemper Virus around 1994-05 (from 3,000 to under 2,000) and is back now to an all time high of around 3,800 in the ecosystem.”

He states that “[t]he reasons which have led to such a tremendous loss of lions in Kenya or in West Africa (an assumption that Conservation Force believes may not be true in West Africa) are not connected to international trade. To upgrade the lion to CITES Appendix 1 as proposed by Kenya would not address any of the issues that adversely affect the lion populations, i.e. loss of habitat to agriculture, problem animal control, poaching and killing of lions by pastoralists. It would however, make the hunting of lions more difficult or even impossible. This hunting is sustainable and giving value to lions is one major element in the range of conservation tools which Tanzania has successfully applied to protect the future of the lion.” Ironically, Kenya has reported killing as many as 200 lions at a time in problem animal control.

Baldus’ report also analyzes safari lion-hunting in Tanzania which has the largest lion population in Africa. Tanzania’s lion trophy fees are 9.4% of trophy fees in the country. The true significance of this is greater when the low numbers that are taken are compared to the great number of other game animals that are taken, i.e., there is a higher return per animal. The gross amount of income generated from lion hunting in Tanzania per annum is 6-7 million U.S. dollars. A careful analysis of the lion trophy data from 1995 to 2003 “has revealed no significant trend in trophy quality in the Selous Game Reserve. This is further evidence that the off-take has been sustainable…. The data does suggest that lion trophy quality responds rapidly to hunting intensity and lion populations are able to recover easily.”

Baldus concludes by stating that, “[t]he publication of grossly false (or falsified) figures for lion numbers does not facilitate the debate on how to best conserve lions in their range…. It is also not helpful if a country like Kenya, which for a variety of reasons unfortunately has a rather deplorable record of lion and wildlife conservation since its hunting ban 27 years ago, proposes an upgrading of lion to Appendix 1. This proposal aims at banning international trade and this is directed essentially at hunting trophies due to near non-existence of other trade. In no way does this address the reasons which have led to the widespread disappearance of lions in Kenya. It will however, negatively affect the sustainable and consumptive use of lions in countries where this contributes to successful lion conservation.” – John J. Jackson, III.

We can win this one but it is tricky. We also desperately need your help. Mail your contributions to Conservation Force at: 3240 S. I-10 Service Road W., Suite 200, Metairie, LA 70001 USA.

1.) This fight is expensive, so Conservation Force has finally established its own service internet donation site. Contributions now can be made by credit card via our website's donation page.

2.) Even Botswana, which closed its lion hunting several years ago, has filed a formal opposition to Kenya’s proposal. Though its lion hunting is temporarily closed, Botswana states that safari hunting of lion is an important tool if the lion is to survive beyond the borders of parks and protected areas.

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