Category Archives: Lions

Loirish the Lion Killed by Gunshot

Warning: Graphic Photos Below

On Friday the 5th, a male lion was killed by gunshot within our study area in Samburu county. This marks the first time a lion in our study area has been killed by people since 2010. The lion was an 8-year-old male named Loirish, which we had been monitoring since 2008. It appears that a group of warriors happened to come across Loirish as he rested with his brother, and they shot him. Tracks indicate the brother, Lguret, is alive and unharmed.

The Ewaso Lions team is still investigating the reasons for the unprovoked killing. We have experienced human-wildlife conflict in this area before, following incidents when lions attacked people’s livestock. In this situation, there seems to have been no livestock killed. An additional misfortune is that Loirish was one of our GPS collared lions that was providing important location data which we could use to help warn herders. The collar was found along with the lion’s severed head and remains in the remnants of a fire. Without the location data recorded by the collar we may never have learned of Loirish’s fate.

We are extremely saddened by the loss of Loirish, a lion we came to know well over the past five years, especially as he is only one of 40 resident lions within the Samburu region of our study area. We are still actively working with the community and local officials to determine what course of action will take place. By working with the community to understand this event, and the motivations behind it, Ewaso Lions can help to ensure that losses like this are minimized. We will provide updates as soon as we are able.

The severed head of Loirish was burned by whomever shot him.

The lion’s paws were cut off and taken.

Lion Killed On Highway

Jalalo, one of the females in the Ngare Mara Pride, recently lost one of her 1-year old male cubs. The lions were crossing the main tarmac highway (Isiolo-Archers Post) at night, accessing a swamp opposite the Chokaa Gate entrance, when a speeding vehicle hit the cub. We went to investigate the following day and identified the lion as Jalalo’s cub. She remains with one cub.

Many bumps have been put along this road, however the section outside Chokaa Gate remains without any. We hope that this will change in the future as each dry season, many animals will cross the highway in search of water. To date, we’ve recorded Grevy’s zebra, aardwolf and numerous spotted hyena that have been hit on this road.


Identifying the lion with KWS ranger


Jeneria looks at the spot where the lion was hit

Video: Lion Cubs Hunt a Monkey in the River

Heather Gurd, Ewaso Lions volunteer, writes in depth about her experience watching lions make a kill!

Observing lions and other predators within community areas, away from the relative protection provided by the National Reserves, is by no means an easy task. Life for a lion is much tougher here and this is typically reflected in their behaviour; they tend to be far more elusive, remaining concealed from sight during daylight hours and making the job of a lion researcher just that bit more difficult.  To even see a lion in Westgate Conservancy feels like a huge privilege. To see a lion kill – my first ever kill – well, that’s just something else!!

The day started at 6am in the usual manner with a trip into the Conservation Area in Westgate.  The information collected on these patrols helps to build a picture of wildlife numbers and distributions and I have been genuinely amazed by the diversity of species I have encountered during these various drives. This particular morning, however, was not one of those drives. Unusually, not even a Gerenuk had made an appearance and even the Dikdiks were thin on the ground. Not that it mattered, as the scenery itself and an African sunrise is more than enough to put a smile on your face, even at that hour in the morning!  Nevertheless, as we set out on the evening drive I wasn’t really expecting to see much. How wrong I was…

We had made a small detour, following the lugga down to the river, and were busy watching some elephants on the opposite bank when Jeneria suddenly popped down from the hatch whispering excitedly “Simba”. At this point there had been no confirmed sighting of Magilani for several weeks and, following the news of her injury, everyone was concerned about both her and her two cubs. So it was some relief to see Sikiria and Ltangenoi a fair way up on the opposite bank, albeit without their mother. We were anxious to get a better view of the young males which meant retracing our route before navigating the dry river bed.  We were all holding our breath slightly as Shivani had to manoeuvre poor Gypsy over a series of rivulets, inching into a good vantage point…only for the boys to disappear behind a bush moments later.

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Sikiria sitting on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River

It was Sikiria who reappeared first. He looked thin and very much in need of a decent meal – fortunate then that dinner decided to walk straight past him in the form of an oblivious female Vervet Monkey. The up-until-that-point –seemingly-lethargic Sikiria now appeared anything-but-lethargic. He launched himself in the direction of the monkey, skidding to a halt at the edge of the bank as the Vervet, now more than aware of her mistake,  threw herself into the river and disappeared from view.  She remained submerged for what felt like several minutes while Sikiria stared into the murky water looking somewhat perplexed. When the monkey finally emerged there was an intense exchange of eye contact as if neither party was quite convinced what action to take for the best. The commotion must have attracted the attention of Ltangenoi as he ambled into view. It was only when the mother glanced down that I noticed the small baby sat in the river beside her, her focus switched between her offspring and predator and then finally behind her as if she was weighing up her chances – just like the rest of us!  Then – in act of attempted altruism (for the optimists amongst you) or abandonment (for the pessimists amongst you) – left the baby and walked cautiously along the river bed.  Needless to say, she didn’t get far before Sikiria was hot on her heels.

I imagine that for the audience of any hunt it is likely to be something of an emotional struggle as excitement at the prospect of witnessing a kill is pitted against the empathy for the potential prey. Yet the comments and bouncing up and down left me in little doubt as to where Shivani and Jeneria’s allegiances lay on this occasion and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was on Sikiria’s side too – sorry Mrs. Vervet!

As I tried (and largely failed) to steady my shaky hands, limit my exclamations of “oh my god” (the only words I appear to have been capable of forming) and keep the camera focused on the action, the monkey leapt back up onto the bank and into the direct path of Sikiria. Within seconds it was game over; a tangle of limbs, a few pained screeches and then both lion and monkey careered off the bank and into the river.  As Sikiria tried to scramble back up the bank with his prize firmly between his teeth, Ltangenoi , clearly wanting in on the action, sent a shower of sand down onto his brother. Not content with simply hampering Sikiria’s attempts to get out of the river, Ltangenoi decided he quite fancied a morsel of monkey for himself triggering a fight to break out between the normally cooperative pair – this just goes to show how hungry they must have been. Whilst the boys have been capable of hunting by themselves for a while and are about the age where they should be getting ready to leave their mother, they didn’t seem to have been coping that well since Magilani’s injury.

Whilst the monkey may only been a snack-size, my first kill was definitely one to remember and to have had our own private show, without the crowds that descend at the mere mention of a predator sighting in the reserve, made it all the more special. Unfortunately, I fear my excitement is all too evident in the quality and comments on the video clip!!Lions Hunt Monkey in River

I was still shaking when we arrived back in camp – what a day it was… or rather what a trip! I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend more time with, learn from and hopefully, in some way, be of assistance to the Ewaso Lions team. Thank-you and keep up the great work guys!

Update on the Injured Lion Magilani

On the 25th of June, Lpuresi (one of the Wildlife Watch warriors) found 3 sets of tracks in Mpus Kutuk Conservancy – just across the river from Westgate.  Jeneria and Lpuresi returned to the area the following day and found the tracks again.  Next to one of the tracks was some dried blood and skin.  They followed the tracks for a few minutes and actually spotted Ltangenoi and Sikiria.  They did not see Magilani but we believe she may have been close by.

From this latest information, we know Magilani is still alive.  We hope that her wounds have healed and she is recovering and we’re waiting for her to cross back into the Conservation Area of Westgate so we can assess her status and see that she is ok.

We’ll keep you posted.

Ambassador Lioness Severely Wounded

Our favorite local lion, Magilani, has been critically injured. We don’t yet know how she was injured or what her outlook is. But she is alive and she is with her two cubs, and she can move around. We are doing everything we can to find her and assess the situation and her status. Here’s what has happened so far.

On Monday, we drove to Arusha, Tanzania for the ATBC-SCB Conference (Assoc. for Tropical Biology and Conservation & Society for Conservation Biology Conservation Africa Section). Just as we were settling in we got a call that a severely wounded lion had been spotted in the Conservation Area just next to our camp. Trying to get all the facts and coordinate everyone involved from Tanzania was next to impossible, so we decided to pack up, cancel our participation in the conference and rush back to Samburu.

At the time, we didn’t know which lion was injured. Based on photos taken by a guest at Sasaab Lodge, we couldn’t ID the lion or decide with certainty how she was injured, but we could see bloody wounds on her right chest and right foreleg. However, it was hard to really assess her status from photos alone and we really needed to see her.

On Friday our hearts sank when we found the lion and confirmed it was Magilani, the lioness who lives with her two adolescent cubs in the Conservation Area in Westgate Community Conservancy. We were the first people to see and ID her and have been monitoring her for the past 2+ years. She serves as an ambassador lion and has become famous among the community.

She is lucky to be with her cubs who are old enough to make kills on their own and hopefully help her feed. She disappeared again on Saturday, but with the help of Sasaab Lodge and the scouts of Westgate, we are spending every possible moment looking for her.

Given the ecological importance of this small lion population, and the many threats causing its decline, each and every individual is invaluable. This is why it is so essential that we focus our efforts on ensuring Magilani’s well-being and safety.

We will continue to keep you updated and thank you for your comments and concern.

Above images courtesy Paul Munroe.

Battle in Samburu

After a long unsuccessful morning of looking for lions in Samburu National Reserve, Jeneria and I were heading back to camp, when some tour vehicles rushed passed us and yelled “wild dogs” out of the window.  We followed and sure enough came to the famous “Daraja ya Wire” in Samburu National Reserve where 15 wild dogs crossed the road in front of us and went down to the Ewaso Nyiro River to drink.  They were excited and nervous as well as they quickly ran around in the river, drinking a little at the same time. We were parked on the riverbank, in perfect view of the scene that was about to enfold around us.

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Pack of 15 wild dogs come to the Ewaso Nyiro River to drink

Suddenly, the wild dogs started barking in our direction and right below us a huge crocodile came out of the riverbank and moved towards the wild dogs.  I have never seen a crocodile move so quickly!  The wild dogs continued to drink quickly but at the same time, the front ones started running off across the river into Buffalo Springs.  The crocodile did not give up and continued moving towards the dogs.  Three dogs were at the back of the pack and they eventually started running towards Buffalo Springs as the crocodile got closer.

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A crocodile moves quickly towards the wild dogs

As I was taking photos of this amazing scene, Jeneria suddenly whispered loudly “Simba!”.  We had no idea that there was a lion there, but out of the thick riverine bushes, Lguret, our maneless male lion, jumped off the riverbank in front of us, into the great Ewaso Nyiro river and pursued the wild dogs together with the crocodile who was also making progress.  This time the wild dogs did not hang around – they ran off quickly, leapt up the sandy riverbank and into Buffalo Springs.  Lguret did not stop.  He ran right across the river and just as he was about to get up the riverbank, he slid on the sand and fell back into the river.  Lucky for the dogs-as the last ones got away.

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Lguret chases the wild dogs across the river

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Crocodile keeps following in hot pursuit

Lguret tried again to get up the riverbank and then stopped and watched the dogs disappear.  After a few minutes, he walked down into the river and slowly crossed back into Samburu.  He soon joined Loirish, his brother and both males settled down for the day.

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This was one of the best wildlife sightings I have ever had.  Jeneria managed to capture the whole scene on video.  We rarely see wild dogs in the reserves – most often we see them in Westgate Community Conservancy.  This was a real treat for everyone.

Investigating the Death of a Lion

During one of our weekly Warrior Watch meetings in Westgate Conservancy, I received a call from a sergeant at Buffalo Springs National Reserve that some tourists had seen a dead lion.We left immediately went to investigate, and I knew it would take us at least 4 hours to get to the location.

On the way, I spoke to the wardens and other rangers to get more news.  The story was confusing –  the dead lion was apparently near a dead oryx.  We entered Buffalo Springs and drove to the area where the lion had been seen.  KWS and Buffalo Springs rangers were in the area walking around trying to locate the lion.  The details were so vague and we were not exactly sure what and where to find the dead oryx and lion.

Finally at 5:30 pm, one of the rangers spotted the dead lion.  It was a young male lion of 2 years.  Next to him was a carcass of an impala, not an oryx.  There were few remains of the impala and it appeared that some jackals had already eaten parts of the lion.

I identified the male lion as one of the cubs from the Ngare Mara Pride; a pride I have followed closely over the past few years.

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IMG_5454The 2 year-old lion was a member of the Ngare Mara pride.

We looked closely at the lion to see what may have caused its death.  It was confusing seeing a dead lion with no obvious injury or wound next to a dead impala.  Dr Mutinda, the vet in charge from KWS responded immediately to our request to attend to the dead lion and assess cause of death.  He concluded that the lion had choked on the impala bone whilst feeding, leading to death.

IMG_5457Remains of the impala

IMG_5466Recording the death of the lion

I am relieved that this death was not caused by humans but it is unfortunate that we have now lost one more lion within our small lion population in the Samburu/Isiolo ecosystem.

Lions Hunt Young Elephant

Our two resident males in Samburu managed to bring down an elephant calf recently.  They have hunted elephants on a few other occasions and appear to be proficient elephant hunters.  The boys stayed with the elephant for days – I have never seen them this huge and they were almost unable to move!  Its good to see the males looking healthy.  After the floods this year, we couldn’t find them for months as many areas were inaccessible, and when we did see them, they looked thin.  These are good times for lions.  The area is dry and most prey are concentrated along the Ewaso Nyiro River making it easier for hunting.   Here are a few photos of the two males with their elephant meal.

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Keeping a watchful eye

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The remains of the elephant

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Guarding their meal

Lions on Leopard Rock

Driving into Samburu National Reserve recently, we were treated to a lovely lion scene. In the distance we could see the prominent Leopard Rock on top of which were sitting what looked like lions.  We drove up slowly and sure enough, we saw a small lion cub sitting at the top of Leopard Rock, and soon after 4 more cubs appeared.  The 5 cubs were enjoying the last few minutes of the sun as it was about to set.  We couldn’t see the mothers anywhere but the cubs did not appear to be too bothered that they were alone. They had a fantastic view of the plains around.  This was the first time I have seen lions sitting on this well known rock formation – come to think of it, I have never seen a leopard here either. Maybe it should be renamed!  Here are a few photos of the cubs.

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Beautiful and Elusive Lioness Magilani Introduces Her Cubs

We were so fortunate to see Magilani and her 2 cubs in August.  We saw her almost daily at her usual time of around 6:30 pm.  Her cubs were curious at first to see who we were and what we were all about. Initially, she was also wary of our presence but eventually settled down and sat near us after realising we were not a threat.  After 2 years of trying to get good identity photos of this special female, we have finally managed and a bigger bonus is seeing her cubs for the first time.

Observing and photographing lions in community areas is hard and we have only had about 30 sightings over the last 2 years.   This has been the best month so far and we are thrilled to have finally observed this beautiful female and her cubs.  We also had good fortune with our camera trap which took a great photo!

Magilani

Magilani

Magilani's 2 cubs

Her 2 young cubs

One of the cubs

One of the cubs

Image of cub taken on camera trap

Captured on camera!