Escaped lions tracked by armed rangers in Kenyan capital

Nairobi residents warned not to confront two lionesses that strayed from national park into highly populated areas

Wildlife rangers are searching for two lions which escaped from Nairobis national park and wandered into highly populated areas of the Kenyan capital.

Kenya Wildlife Service issued an appeal for help to get two lionesses that strayed from the Nairobi national park. Armed rangers and KWS vets carrying dart guns scoured bush and agricultural land near Kibera, one of Africas largest slums. Lions are dangerous wild animals. Avoid provoking the lions by confronting them, said a KWS spokesman, Paul Udoto.

Buffalo and rhino also roam in the national park, which is a few miles from the centre of Nairobi and spans 45 sq miles (117 sq km). At least two lionesses are reported to have left the park late on Thursday, but local media reported that up to six lions could be on the loose.

It is not the first time lions have strayed into Nairobi. The big cats are under growing pressure as one of Africas fastest-growing cities creeps on to ancient migration routes and hunting grounds. Escaped lions are sometimes killed by livestock farmers protecting their herds.

These are highly populated areas and that is why we are intensifying the search, Udoto said. Anyone with information about them should share it with us immediately.


Rangers carrying tranquilliser guns search for the lions. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Image

He added that the two lionesses were last seen near Nairobis Langata district. Our teams, comprising veterinary officials, have been in Langata looking for the animals, he said.

Lions are estimated to have declined in number by up to three-quarters since 1980, and to occupy less than a tenth of their historic range across Africa. Although Nairobis national park is fenced in on the city side, it is open elsewhere to allow the annual wildlife migration.

But the land is under threat from increasing urbanisation and more intensive agriculture, and the routes used by migrating herds are growing narrower. Conservationists say wildlife protection is a low priority for officials in the city of 3.5 million people.

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