Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
For the second time in less than a year, a beloved, iconic, 13-year-old lion has been shot to death.
But this time it wasn’t killed by a dentist, the sons of a presidential candidate or someone else shelling out big bucks for the thrill of destroying a majestic creature.
Mohawk, named for his spiky black mane, escaped Wednesday morning from Nairobi National Park, where he was regarded by many as the lion king.
He wandered to the town of Isinya, which is part of the seasonal migration area for lions. He was soon surrounded by the curious residents. Many of them taunted him, throwing rocks and spears, for as long as six hours, reports the Star, a Kenya newspaper.
Local officials reportedly tried to protect Mohawk, but not surprisingly, being tormented “brought about a visible agitation in the lion due to the rowdiness and size of the crowd,” the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) tweeted.
When Mohawk couldn’t take any more, he broke free from the crowd and pounced on a man riding by on a motorcycle. Townspeople started chasing the lion with bows and arrows, while KWS rangers — who took hours to arrive on the scene, even though it was just 12 miles from the park – started firing their rifles.
A disturbing video shows Mohawk fall to the ground after he was shot in the leg while trying to run away from the mob scene. He was then shot eight more times.
Instead of using tranquilizer darts to subdue the stressed-out lion, the rangers pumped nine bullets into him to “avert injuries or at worst, deaths to members of the public,” according to the KWS. “This action was taken as a last resort after an escalation of the situation, and a concern for public safety.”
Isinya Deputy County Commissioner David Kipkemei, who tried to protect Mohawk and witnessed his murder, strongly disagrees.
“We have been here all these hours protecting this lion. The rangers came with guns but we suggested the lion be sedated and taken back to the park,” he told the Star. “They have spoiled everything by killing the cat. This is wrong.”
The KWS didn’t say why it took so long for its rangers to show up, why they only brought rifles loaded with bullets or why they killed Mohawk so inhumanely. Another group of rangers was on its way with tranquilizer darts, but by the time they arrived, it was too late
This wasn’t the first time Mohawk or other lions had escaped from Nairobi National Park. Because of ongoing construction projects – which are loud and stressful to the wildlife – an electric fence intended to keep the animals inside has been disconnected, making it easy to get out.
“We are working with contractors to ensure they maintain the integrity of the park and keep all animals safe,” Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu told the Star.
The Rangers ‘No Different Than Poachers’
Just as with Cecil last year, outrage is growing over Mohawk’s cruel and senseless killing.
“I am sad and heartbroken,” wildlife photographer Paras Chandaria told the Star. “How do the custodians of our wildlife and nature, the KWS, just gun down a famous dominant male lion in front of hundreds of people, including children?”
Also critical of the shooting is Perez Olindo, director of the Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Department. “There are many biological means of subduing lions and translocating them, which is purely the mandate of the KWS,” he told the Star. “Killing them is not part of the agency’s role and does not mean lions will not stray from the park.”
County assembly member Daniel Kanchori said the rangers were “no different than poachers.”
Thousands of Care2 members are urging the KWS to fire the rangers that killed Mohawk.
“Instead of humanely tranquilizing Mohawk and bringing him back to the park, reckless and unprepared KWS officers senselessly shot and killed him,” wrote Kelsey Bourgeois in a petition that’s been signed more than 53,000 times as of April 1. “These rangers must be fired for cruelty to animals — their whole job is to protect animals like Mohawk and they have failed miserably.”