KANUNGU — Wildlife authorities have found a yet to be established number of lions dead from suspected poisoning in Queen Elizabeth National Park, in the southwest of the country, on Saturday morning.
The dead lions so far include lion cubs and adult lionesses.
The pride had been filmed along with other lions in the park for a television special on National Geographic WILD focusing on conservation and featuring their habit of climbing and hanging out in the spreading branches of candelabra trees.
This unusual behavior has drawn visitors to the park eager to watch big cat acrobatics. Most lions don’t climb trees.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority confirmed the development and said it was launching an investigation after the pride was found dead at the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Mr. Bashir Hangi, a communications officer with the Uganda Wildlife Authority confirmed the incident and said an investigation has been sanctioned.
“Investigations will confirm the type of poison that was used. Investigations should lead to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the people behind this heinous act,” he said.
A source at Uganda Wildlife Authority who spoke on condition of anonymity thinks it’s possible the lions were poisoned with alidcarb, an insecticide better known as Temik, which he says is cheap and readily available.
Aldicarb is a carbamate, which works by preventing a certain enzyme from breaking down the chemical substances that transmit nerve impulses. The buildup of this substance in nerve synapses can cause vomiting, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and death. Death is usually caused by suffocation.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority believes that the lions were poisoned in retaliation for killing villagers’ cattle. But there aren’t any suspects yet.
Aldicarb has been used to poison both wild and domestic animals.
The intentional poisoning of wildlife is not uncommon throughout eastern Africa, as cattle herders and big carnivores like lions increasingly come into contact with people.
There are a handful of fishing villages within Queen Elizabeth National Park’s boundaries. In one, Hanjungu, cattle owners sometimes let their animals go beyond the village limits, where the grazing is better. Lions in the area see easy prey walking right into their territory and attack.
Africa’s lions have declined 90 percent during the past 75 years as a result of habitat loss and greater contact with humans, according to National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative.
Lions can reproduce fairly quickly, and Queen Elizabeth National Park’s ecosystem can support them, the expert said.