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KWS steps up hunt for stray lions in Rongai

Residents of Ongata Rongai are living in fear
Residents of Ongata Rongai are living in fear of an encounter with lions. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI 

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has stepped up surveillance in the Ongata Rongai area where a lion killed a man on Monday and three others – a lioness and two male cubs - were spotted marauding near River Kandisi and Mutondo Ridge estate at the weekend.

“KWS has deployed a 24-hour surveillance team to patrol Rongai’s Tuala area for any stray lion in the environs where the unfortunate incident of a man being mauled by a lion occurred,” the agency said in a statement on Friday even as it downplayed reports that ten lions were on the loose in the area neighbouring the Nairobi National Park.

Despite the assurance, residents of Ongata Rongai are living in fear of an encounter with lions, with witnesses saying that early risers had spotted a pride of the cats at different times.

Witnesses told the Business Daily that on Friday and Saturday a lioness and two cubs were spotted near Riverview Academy at around 5am. The school is not very far from River Kandisi. Others claimed the three had earlier been spotted near PCEA Smyrna Church on Friday morning.

Sammy Chege, the chairman of a local residents association near where the lions have been spotted, said residents have now restricted movements to between 9am and 5pm to stay away from the lions that mostly roam from sunset until early in the morning.

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"On Friday morning, we were told by some early risers that they had seen a lioness and two young males along Ole-Mutondo Road between 5.30am and 7am," he said. "We informed KWS and in about two hours they were here. We have told people to remain indoors between 9am to 5pm".

The number of lions spotted in the area remains unclear with conflicting counts although some residents claimed to have spotted the wild animals at different times between Thursday and Saturday.

On Friday, KWS dismissed reports that a pride of ten lions had been spotted outside the national park.

"The attention of KWS has been drawn to social media posts alleging that ten lions are on the loose in Rongai, Ngong and Kitengela areas... this is not true. Members of the public are advised to ignore these reports," the agency said in a statement.

A witness, whose house is about half a kilometre from Tumaini Supermarket, said that he woke up to find footprints of the wild cats outside his house.

"Rangers came at around 3am and they saw the lioness jump over a perimeter fence before disappearing into the nearby bushes. But they could not see the two others and they have left at around 10am," he said at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the man who was mauled near the bridge linking Tuala and the African Nazarene University at Oloosirkon Ward has been identified as Rono Kipkurui. The victim, believed to be a labourer, was reportedly heading home when he was attacked on December 9. Witnesses said they called KWS officers after the incident.

In 2016, lions attacked and critically injured a man along the Ongata Rongai-Kiserian road near Rimpa.

Nairobi National Park is the only park in the world that is within a city. Although it has an electric fence to keep the animals inside and humans from encroaching, cases of wild animals crossing into settled areas have increased in recent years as human settlements encroach on migration corridors. Part of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) also crosses through the park and environment activists have told the Business Daily that there has been an increase in the number of wild animals, including cheetahs, which have been killed by the train.

There are fears that the railway line has disrupted the animals’ migration patterns and affected their habitat, prompting the wild cats to roam into the Tuala area and the lower parts of Ongata Rongai.

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