Kenya lion escape: Nairobi on alert

  • 19 February 2016
  • From the section Africa
A lion looking towards Nairobi, Kenya Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nairobi National Park is on the southern edge of Kenya's capital

Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is on alert after several lions escaped from a nearby national park overnight and strayed into the city.

One lioness and her two cubs have been recaptured, and two other animals are believed to have gone back into the Nairobi National Park on their own accord.

But it is not clear whether more lions remain on the loose.

Residents have been told to report any sightings to a free telephone line.

"Lions are dangerous wild animals. Don't confront them when you encounter them," Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) tweeted.

The park is separated by a main road from densely populated neighbourhoods, including Kibera slum, in the south of the city.

The BBC's Emmanuel Igunza in Nairobi says some residents of Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, are angry that the KWS is taking so long to hunt down the lions.

Two of the lions were spotted not far from the slum earlier in the morning.

There has been confusion about how many lions escaped and wildlife officials are currently verifying numbers inside the park, our reporter says.

It is estimated about 30 lions live there in an area spread over 117 sq km (45 sq miles).

KWS senior warden Nelly Palmeris said three lions were found in a housing complex at a military barracks near the park.

They had not wandered too far as the lioness was still nursing her two cubs, she said.

How to catch a lion?

Image copyright AFP

In less built-up areas bordering the park:

  • Manually comb through areas of thick scrub, where lions tend to hide
  • Use helicopters to spot the animals and then fly low to steer them in a direction away from inhabited areas.

In densely populated areas:

  • Alert the public to report sightings and stay clear of big cats
  • Once located, lure the lion out into an open space with goat meat
  • Once easily visible, a vet should fire a dart with tranquilisers to sedate the cat
  • Never approach or irritate the animals - lionesses with cubs are most dangerous as they will attack if provoked even when not hungry.

Source: KWS senior warden Nelly Palmeris

Mr Udoto said he was concerned that people would try to tackle the lions themselves, as has happened in the past.

In 2012, four cubs had to be placed in an orphanage after a similar incident led to their mother being killed.

Image caption This KWS vehicle is stationed near Kibera where two lions were sighted early in the morning
Image copyright TWITTER

Answering a question on Twitter from a worried mother, Mr Udoto advised her to keep her children locked inside until the lions had been safely returned to the park, adding such incidents were the "perils of born town lions".

Nairobi National Park is fenced in on the city side but is open elsewhere to allow for the annual wildlife migration.

Conservationists say a loss of habitat for lions in Kenya means they are increasingly coming into conflict with humans, putting their survival at risk.

The free number to call to report sightings is 0800597000.

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