Maasai farmers only kill lions when they attack livestock

February 26, 2019

Maasai farmers do not kill lions for retribution whenever they lose sheep or cattle, new research shows.

It is widely believed that Maasai farmers kill lions after losing livestock - even if lions are not involved - but the study shows this is not the case.

Instead, researchers from the University of Exeter and the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi found that lion killing only increases when lions are thought to have killed livestock.

If livestock are lost to other predators, theft, drought or disease, lion killing does not increase.

Lion killing - a criminal act in Kenya that is famously part of traditional Maasai culture - is less common now than in the past, but its causes remain controversial.

"In the drylands of southern Kenya, Maasai farmers are in direct conflict with carnivores that kill their livestock," said lead author Enoch Ontiri.

"We surveyed 213 focus groups of Maasai farmers, from three geographic regions, to test theories about the retaliatory nature of lion killing.

"We found that the probability of lion killing increases when lions are identified as culprits of livestock death, but not when leopard, cheetah, hyena, dog or jackal are identified.

"These results should change the common belief that lion killing is a retributive act caused by general loss of livestock - it is a retaliatory act against the loss of livestock to lions."

The survey of Maasai communities also showed there is universal agreement that humans and lions should coexist in Kenya.

The researchers hope their evidence will help shape the governance and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya and beyond.

"The relationship between people and wildlife is changing rapidly in Kenya," said author Professor Dave Hodgson, Director of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter.

"Lion killing is part of traditional Maasai culture but in recent years we have seen this change from an indiscriminate act that signals passage into manhood, to a direct response to the loss of livestock.

"Our study makes it very clear that lion killing is provoked only by the loss of livestock to lions.

"We believe that better protection of livestock from predators is the solution to this important source of human-wildlife conflict."

The paper forms part of Enoch Ontiri's PhD, which is funded by the Ivan Bond Scholarship.

The research is also supported by Wildlife Direct, the British Ecological Society and National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.

The paper, published in the journal People and Nature, is entitled: "Maasai pastoralists kill lions in retaliation for depredation of livestock by lions."
-end-


University of Exeter

Related Predators Articles from Brightsurf:

Boo! How do mexican cavefish escape predators?
When startled, do all fish respond the same way? A few fish, like Mexican cavefish, have evolved in unique environments without any predators.

Herbivores, not predators, most at risk of extinction
One million years ago, the extinction of large-bodied plant-eaters changed the trajectory of life on Earth.

Bugs resort to several colours to protect themselves from predators
New research has revealed for the first time that shield bugs use a variety of colours throughout their lives to avoid predators.

Jellyfish contain no calories, so why do they still attract predators?
New study shows that jellyfish are an important food source for many animals.

'Matador' guppies trick predators
Trinidadian guppies behave like matadors, focusing a predator's point of attack before dodging away at the last moment, new research shows.

The European viper uses cloak-and-dazzle to escape predators
Research of the University of Jyväskylä demonstrates that the characteristic zig-zag pattern on a viper's back performs opposing functions during a predation event.

Predators help prey adapt to an uncertain future
What effect does extinction of species have on the evolution of surviving species?

To warn or to hide from predators?: New computer simulation provides answers
Some toxic animals are bright to warn predators from attacking them, and some hide the warning colors, showing them only at the very last moment when they are about to be attacked.

Dragonflies are efficient predators
A study led by the University of Turku, Finland, has found that small, fiercely predatory damselflies catch and eat hundreds of thousands of insects during a single summer -- in an area surrounding just a single pond.

Predators to spare
In 2014, a disease of epidemic proportions gripped the West Coast of the US.

Read More: Predators News and Predators Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.