Birders rejoice as Oregon standoff comes to close

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2016/02/birders_rejoice_as_oregon_stan.html#incart_story_package

With David Fry’s surrender to FBI agents Thursday morning, birders and environmentalists breathed a collective sigh of relief.

They’d grown increasingly anxious watching as the armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife refuge that began Jan. 2 dragged on for weeks and then for more than a month. Fry was among a group of four holdouts who dug in after the departure of most occupiers Jan. 26 and 27.

With each passing day, the standoff posed a greater threat to the spring migration that draws millions of shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds to the 187,000-acre bird sanctuary.

“This couldn’t have ended soon enough,” said Harv Schubothe, president of the Oregon Birding Association.

Spring thaw is just around the corner, and Schubothe worried what might happen if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel couldn’t be present to direct the flow of melting water. He feared northbound swans, geese and sandhill cranes might arrive at Malheur to find dry meadows where wetlands should be. Unmanaged melt of this year’s copious snowpack could also cause flooding that might breach levies and wash out roads.

The standoff also threatened the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival, an April event that offers a major tourism boost for the county.

When the last occupier exited the refuge Thursday morning, all those threats disappeared. Their minds eased, refuge supporters turned to the formidable task of moving on and mending relationships frayed by the occupation.

“There’s a consensus that we never want this to happen again,” said Chris Gardner, who serves on the board of the nonprofit Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. “We want to make sure the refuge and Burns and the Harney County community are in partnership going forward, so it doesn’t happen again.”

For Gardner’s group, the occupation came with an upside. Bird lovers and environmentalists angry about the standoff channeled their feelings into action. The Friends of Malheur grew from 40 members to more than 700 over the course of the occupation. The group took in more than $25,000 in donations.

“Our treasurer has just gotten flooded with envelopes,” Gardner said.

The 41-day standoff began when Idaho businessman Ammon Bundy led a band of militants in an unannounced seizure of the refuge headquarters. Bundy’s insurrection fizzled on Jan. 26 when he and other occupation leaders were arrested on a highway north of Burns. LaVoy Finicum, a spokesman for the occupation, died in the encounter.

Known among birders and environmentalists as the crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system, the vast preserve surrounding Malheur Lake is a rare source of abundant water in the arid Great Basin and a crucial point along the Pacific Flyway. Its importance to migratory birds can’t be understated, Schubothe said.

“The number of different species that depend on that oasis is just astounding,” he said.

In a way, the occupation leaders had fortuitous timing. Malheur’s wetlands are relatively empty in winter, with fewer birds present save the occasional hawk, quail, raven or owl. But the refuge comes alive in the spring as hundreds of species ranging from grebes and pelicans to warblers and finches arrive to feed and breed in its wetlands.

The standoff has likely ended with enough time for refuge staff to prepare for the migration, but cleaning up the occupiers’ mess could continue for weeks or months.

In a statement Thursday, Fish and Wildlife officials said they’ll be working to “assess and repair damages.”

In addition to the big task of managing water, refuge staff have been kept from the mundane duties of checking fish screens that keep invasive carp from tightening their grip on the refuge habitat, fixing fences and getting contracts in place for the summer.

“All that stuff that goes into making a place like Malheur function optimally, that’s stuff you can’t do on the spot,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “You need to be prepping throughout the year.”

Sallinger quietly visited the bird sanctuary weeks into the occupation. Hoping to avoid the flurry of protests, counter-protests and news cameras, he brought little more than his binoculars and a bird list.

“I felt it was important to see for myself,” he said.

The swans had already arrived and the first sandhill cranes were coming in. Other waterfowl will arrive soon.

Although Sallinger was alone during his visit, other birders are planning trips to Malheur now that the occupiers have left. Hundreds have answered the environmental groups’ call for volunteers to assist in the cleanup effort.

Alan Contreras, a Eugene educational administrator and avid birder who began visiting the refuge as a child, plans to be among those returning this spring.

A lifelong Oregonian whose roots in the state go back to 1871, Contreras, 60, had taken the refuge occupation personally. He resented its out-of-stater leaders, who seemed to feel they had more right to the land than he did.

“I have asked my family to place my ashes there when the time comes,” he said. “It’s that kind of place.”

–Kelly House

Texas executes suspected poacher who shot, killed game warden

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/01/28/texas-executes-suspected-poacher-who-fatally-shot-game-warden.html

This undated photo shows Texas inmate James Freeman.  (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

This undated photo shows Texas inmate James Freeman. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

A Texas man was executed Wednesday evening for fatally shooting a game warden nine years ago during a shootout after a 90-minute chase that began when he was suspected of poaching.

He was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m., 16 minutes after Texas prison officials began a lethal dose of pentobarbital. As the pentobarbital began taking effect, he snored about five times and coughed slightly once.

The lethal injection was the second in as many weeks in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case earlier this month, and no new appeals were filed in the courts to try to block the punishment.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday declined a clemency petition from Freeman.

Freeman was suspected of illegally hunting at night in Southeast Texas’ Wharton County when a game warden spotted him. Freeman sped away, leading authorities on a chase that reached 130 mph. It ended near a cemetery near his home in Lissie with Freeman stepping out of his pickup truck and shooting at officers.

When the March 17, 2007, shootout was over, Freeman had been shot four times and Justin Hurst, a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden who had joined in the pursuit, was fatally wounded. It was Hurst’s 34th birthday. About 100 law enforcement officers, many of them Texas game wardens, stood outside the Huntsville prison, during the execution.

Also outside were several motorcyclists who support law enforcement, the loud revving of their bikes clearly audible as the punishment was being carried out.

The brother of the Texas slain game warden thanked the law enforcement officers for coming to Huntsville.

“Nine years ago — nine long years,” Greg Hurst said after the execution, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke of his brother’s death.

Texas Game Warden Col. Craig Hunter, head of law enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a witness to Freeman’s execution, said the punishment marked “a moment that many of us have been waiting for since we first heard of Justin’s death.”

Hurst was an alligator and waterfowl specialist before moving to law enforcement. A state wildlife management area where he once worked in Brazoria County and about 60 miles south of Houston now carries his name.

Freeman’s trial lawyer, Stanley Schneider, said heavy alcohol use and severe depression led the unemployed welder to try to commit “suicide by cop” in his confrontation with officers.

“It was totally senseless,” Schneider said of the fatal shooting. “It really is very sad that it happened, that two families are suffering like this.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has at least eight other inmates set to die through July. Last year, 13 convicted killers were put to death in Texas, accounting for nearly half of all the 28 executions carried out nationwide.

Poaching Death of Popular Oklahoma Elk

From Oklahoma KC local news:

He was a little scruffy looking and didn’t have a majestic set of antlers,
but a very popular
Nickel Preserve bull elk with the nickname Hollywood was killed on Friday
night. He was very
laid back and kid-friendly and well known to the preserve visitors.
Poachers on late Friday or on early Saturday found the elk a few yards
off a country road
and shot it with a crossbow and a rifle. Then they took its head and one
hindquarter and left the
rest to rot.
News of the killing exploded on social media Sunday and Monday as the
Nature Conservancy
offered a $1000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those
responsible. And on Monday
the Tulsa-based NatureWorks pledged to double that reword.
The president of NatureWorks stated “Our board members are outraged by
this totally classless
act. NatureWorks hopes in matching the reward that the responsible party
will be apprehended
and prosecuted to the fullest extent.”
The $2000 comes in addition to a reward of $500 that could be offered
thru the Okla. Dept. of
Wildlife Conservation’s anonymous tip line, Operation Game Thief.
The Director of the preserve said the elk’s small rack and scruffy look
may have kept him
safe for a time.
The Nature Conservancy’s 17,000 acre Nickel Preserve, in the Cookson
Hills NE of Tahlequah, Okla.,
is home to a herd of about 50 elk and a group of five bulls and 15 cows
were transplanted to the
preserve in 2005 to re-establish the herd in the Ozarks.
The bull elk was nicknamed Hollywood because this 8 to 9 year old bull
had taken up residence
near the county road on the preserve and was a regular feature of social
media posts from nearly
everyone who came to the preserve. He seldom ever left the preserve.
The old bull was indeed a good one for people who wanted to get close to
him.
A preserve visitor states “We called him Lawrence Elk.” She saw the elk
for the first time last
year and since then, she and her daughters have visited the preserve one or
twice a month.
She added “There have been many times I pulled up and he was within 4
yards of my car,
and he would just lie down and chew his cud. I think he saw cars so much
he just became
accustomed to it.”

Showdown in the Malheur Marshes: the Origins of Rancher Terrorism in Burns, Oregon

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/05/showdown-in-the-malheur-marshes-the-origins-of-the-armed-occupation-in-burns-oregon/

Malheur-Oregon-standoff-1

During the spring of 1995, shortly after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, James Ridgeway and I spent a couple of weeks traveling across the West for a series of stories in the Village Voice that chronicled  the rise of militant new rightwing movements of militias, white supremacists, Christian Identity sects and anti-government groups, including a profile of central Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond, now at the center of the armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters near Burns.

In the early 1990s, Hammond repeatedly transgressed federal environmental laws, trespassed on federal lands and hurled death threats at federal wildlife officials. Little action was taken against Hammond by a timid Clinton administration. Emboldened, Hammond and some of his fellow ranchers continued over the next two decades to flagrantly flout environmental laws and harass federal officials. These activities finally culminated in an act of poaching on Steens Mountain and two arson fires. Hammond and his son were convicted in federal court and sentenced to five years in prison. That conviction sparked the armed takeover of federal buildings now unfolding in Burns. Here is our report from 1995. — JSC

In the high desert of central Oregon, lies Harney County, a site of a long-festering and intense confrontation between federal officials and the militant property rights movement. Here federal Fish and Wildlife Service agents sought to fence off a wetland that had been trampled by a rancher’s cows on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge about thirty miles south of the dust-caked town of Burns.

In an affidavit, Earl M. Kisler, a Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement officer, said that rancher Dwight Hammond had repeatedly threatened refuge officials with violence over an eight year period. On one occasion Hammond told the manager of the federal refuge that “he was going to tear his head off and shit down his neck.”

According to the affidavit, Hammond threated to kill refuge manager Forrest Cameron and assistant manager Dan Walsworth and claimed he was ready to die over a fence line that the refuge wanted to construct to keep his cows out of a marsh and wetland.

The tensions between the Hammond family and the government started when the refuge, which was established as a haven for migrating birds, refused to renew a grazing permit for Hammond’s cattle operation. Then came the incident over the wetland, which Hammond had been using as a water hole for his cows.

On August 3, 1994, a Fish and Wildlife Service crew turned up to complete the task of fencing off the marsh. They found the fence destroyed and a monkey-wrenched earthmover parked in the middle of the marsh. While the feds were waiting on a towing service to remove the Cat, Hammond’s son Steve showed up and began calling the government men “worthless cocksuckers” and “assholes.” Hammond then arrived at the scene, according to the government’s documents, and tried to disrupt the removal of the equipment. The rancher was arrested.

Susan Hammond said nine federal agents, five of them armed, took her husband into custody. “There five guns there, at least five guns there, and not one of them belonged to us,” she said. “We have been sitting and stewing and trying to figure something out. Trying to find out how something like this could happen in America.”

After Hammond’s arrest, Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association, and a key organizer for the property rights movement in the West, said he helped stage a demonstration in Hammond’s defense in Burns. Refuge manager Cameron’s daughter attended the meeting. “She got up at our meeting,” Cushman told me. “She said she was tired of people vilifying her father. And I thought it was just wonderful. I got up and applauded her. She had the guts to do it. Too bad he didn’t have the guts to do the same thing.”

It was after that fateful gathering, while Cameron himself was 300 miles away in Portland completing the paperwork on Hammond’s arrest, that his family began receiving more threats, including one call threatening to wrap the Camerons’ 12-year-old boy in a shroud of barbed wire and stuff him down a well. Other callers warned Mrs. Cameron that if she couldn’t get along in the cow town, she ought to move out before something “bad” happened to her family. The families of three other refuge employees also received telephone threats after the meeting. Terrified, Mrs. Cameron packed up her four children, one of them confined to a wheelchair, and fled to Bend, more than 100 miles to the west.

Cushman later acknowledged that he may have “unintentionally” been a cause of these threats. Angered at the way the feds had arrested Hammond, the property rights organizer told me: “I went to the phone book and I picked out the names of all these guys and I wrote their phone numbers down. And I printed a sheet which I handed out to all the ranchers.  ‘Here are the names of the guys who went on that property. What I want you to do is everywhere these guys go in the community, when they go to the grocery store, when they go to the barbershop, look ‘em right in the eye and tell them: You’re not being a good neighbor. You’re not being friendly.’”

But, Cushman claimed, he also told Hammond’s supporters: “Do not harass these people. I said it right at the meeting and I said it in the document. If Cameron’s right, some people used that document and phoned them and made threats. I am very sorry that happened.”

Cushman nevertheless remained committed to keeping the pressure on federal wildlife agents. “I will make them responsible. Their names—no matter where they go or where they work—those people will know when they get there who they have to deal with. They will be a pariah for the rest of their lives. So the next time they will go to the county sheriff if they want to arrest a man and not the federal cops. They will take him to a local jail. They will not put the man in leg irons. They won’t treat them like vicious criminals.”

A year passed since Hammond’s arrest. The rancher  and his son both denied the government’s charges. No trial had taken place. In fact, after some rather questionable contacts between former Oregon congressman Bob Smith (a Republican) and the Clinton Justice Department, the government inexplicably reduced its original felony charges to misdemeanors.

“This whole thing has gone on longer than the O.J. trial,” Cameron told me. “But this case won’t resolve anything. There’s something deeper going on here, associated with the county movement. Until that’s resolved our position is going to remain pretty much the same.”

While the case was pending, Cameron and the other three employees at the wildlife refuge continued to be on the receiving end of threats from local ranchers and their allies. Shops in Burns began displaying signs warning, “This establishment doesn’t serve federal employees.” Two Harney County commissioners were recalled by voters angry that the county didn’t intervene against the wildlife refuge managers on behalf of the Hammonds and because the commissioners didn’t put the county supremacy ordinance up for a vote.

“We had an equally strange situation on the west side of the refuge,” said refuge manager Forest Cameron. “It was a place where cows would wander down off of BLM lands and onto the road at night. We’d had quite a few cow and car collisions. So we decided to put up a fence. You can’t just let cows lie down to sleep in the middle of a public highway in the middle of the night. That’s got to change. And there was fierce resistance to it, even though we worked closely with a lot of the local ranchers, relocated their corrals and the like. So we put up five miles of fence and then one night somebody hotwired one of the BLM backhoes and knocked down every foot of fence, tore up every fence post and demolished the backhoe. The point is that the harassment and intimidation continues in an open and confrontational way. In fact, it is branching out. Many of us feel that the legal process hasn’t moved swiftly or aggressively enough. We’ve been hanging in a kind of limbo. Maybe things will eventually work out. But right now all of us live in a state of anxiety. And you really worry about your kids.”

As for being a federal wildlife official in the West these days, Cameron chuckled darkly and said, “Well, it’s about learning to keep your head down.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Village Voice.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch and author of Born Under a Bad Sky. James Ridgeway is a journalist living in Washington, DC.

Why Are These Poachers Treated With Velvet Gloves?

by Paul Watson

These guys are poachers and in their defense, a group of armed thugs have seized a federal building to denounce the U.S. Federal government because of the conviction of two ranchers who burned 130 acres of public land to conceal their criminal poaching activities.

These are armed right wing anti-government anti-environmentalists defending the right of men to commit crimes.

If this was an occupation by armed Islamic militants the drones would already be launched.

If this was an occupation by Native Americans, the F>B>I> would be moving in aggressively right now.

If this was an occupation by animal rights or environmental activists, everyone would now be dead or in jail.

But somehow just because these guys carry guns, spout tea-party rhetoric, support Trump and the other Republican comedians running for President they are being handled with kid gloves.

Why the discrimination? Why the double standard? Waving the flag does not justify poaching, trespass, destruction of property, threats to civilians and law enforcement people.

There is a big why hanging in the air about this incident.

The question is, what the hell is going to be done about it?

Black lives don’t seem to matter. Native American lives don’t seem to matter. Environmentalist lives don’t seem to matter but cowboy rednecks lives who destroy public land and poach animals seem to matter.

This is rapidly evolving into a major national disgrace.

Fire burned about 130 acres to conceal poaching

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/armed-militia-bundy-brothers-take-over-federal-building-in-rural-oregon/ar-BBoa6sU?ocid=spartanntp

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/03/us/oregon-wildlife-refuge-protest/

The prosecutor said witnesses saw the Hammonds illegally slaughter a herd of deer on public land.

“At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene,” Williams wrote.

He said a teenage relative of the Hammonds testified that Steven Hammond gave him a box of matches and told him to start the blaze. “The fires destroyed evidence of the deer slaughter and took about 130 acres of public land…

           Meanwhile, other terrorists make their statement…

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Decision to declare lions endangered comes just months after the death of ‘Cecil the Lion’

Theo-Bronkhorst-Cecil-lion-Zimbabwe2

“If hunting is part of a conservation strategy, then it’s part of a failing strategy,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on a conference call for journalists. The rule is “not reacting to Cecil specifically or any other incident specific, but rather an overwhelming body of science that says that lions are threatened.”

Hefty fees paid in the by hunters of big game like lions ostensibly help fund conservation efforts. But some wildlife experts question whether the policies have been effective as implemented. Lion populations have declined by 43% during the last 20 years, according to the FWS.

The endangered listing comes along with a number of new policies, including new permit requirements for hunters hoping to import trophies from lion hunts. The agency said it will only issue permits in accordance with science on how best to conserve lion species. The rules also give the FWS authority to deny permits to anyone previously found guilty of violating wildlife laws.

The decision drew immediate praise from animal rights activists who have been working for more than four years to list African lions as endangered. Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the U.S. Humane Society, described the new rule as “one of the most consequential” from the FWS in years. “This listing decision…is likely to dramatically change the equation for American trophy hunters who have been killing lions by the hundreds each year for their parts,” he said in a statement.

Another gray wolf pack identified in Methow Valley

http://methowvalleynews.com/2015/12/03/another-gray-wolf-pack-identified-in-methow-valley/

 

by on • 6:25 pm No Comments

Loup Loup Pack confirmed by wildlife officials

Photo courtesy of DavidMoskowitz A wildlife camera captured this photo of a Loup Loup Pack member.

Photo courtesy of DavidMoskowitz

A wildlife camera captured this photo of a Loup Loup Pack member.

By Ann McCreary

The Methow Valley is now home to two gray wolf packs, with a new pack confirmed to be living in territory that includes Loup Loup Pass.

State and federal wildlife officials last week confirmed the presence of the gray wolf pack and said it will be designated the Loup Loup Pack, reflecting the prominent landmark within the wolves’ range.

Wildlife officials also said last week that they are no longer receiving signals from a GPS radio collar on the breeding female of the Lookout Pack, the valley’s other wolf pack. Officials said they don’t know if the collar malfunctioned, or if the wolf died or was killed.

The female was captured and fitted with a collar last June, but the collar stopped transmitting data Oct. 20, said Scott Fitkin, a biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in the Methow Valley.

“Collars fail. That’s one possibility,” said Fitkin.

The new Loup Loup Pack is believed to include several members, said Scott Becker, wolf specialist for WDFW.

“Right now it looks like at least six individuals,” Becker said Monday (Nov. 30).

For a few years people have reported wolf sightings and evidence of wolves in the area now confirmed to be Loup Loup Pack territory, Becker said.

“We did get some good sighting reports a couple of months ago … and were able to document signs of multiple individuals up there. We put out a few cameras but it wasn’t until the snow started flying that we were able to follow tracks out,” Becker said.

WDFW and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to monitor the new group over the winter and will attempt to capture and fit one of the wolves with a radio collar next summer to monitor the pack, the agencies announced last week.

Annual survey

WDFW conducts an annual wolf pack survey each winter, which confirmed 16 wolf packs in Washington at the end of 2014. Only three packs were confirmed in the North Cascades and the rest in eastern Washington. The Loup Loup Pack brings the number of wolf packs in the North Cascades area to four.

Gray wolves are protected throughout Washington under state law as an endangered species, and will remain protected until the population reaches goals outlined in a state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

They are also protected as endangered under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state, which includes the Methow Valley.

Gray wolf packs typically range across a territory of about 300 square miles, Becker said. And they often travel very long distances to find mates and begin new packs.

“With the capability of wolves to disperse and find each other, the wolves that started that [Loup Loup] pack could have come from Montana or British Columbia,” Becker said.

The new pack “is probably ranging from the Methow to Okanogan” valleys, Fitkin said. “It’s not surprising to see a pack establish near the Lookout Pack.”

There is no evidence that the collar on the Lookout Pack female stopped transmitting because the wolf was poached or otherwise harmed, Becker said.

“We have no way of knowing because we don’t have a dead wolf in front of us,” he said.

“We have a 20 percent failure [collar] failure rate,” Becker said. The collars are expected to last about 18 months before their batteries wear out, he said. The collar had been placed on the Lookout Pack female about four months before it stopped transmitting.

The collars are designed to emit a “mortality signal” if the collared animal stops moving, so that wildlife officials can try to locate the animal. The collar on the Lookout female never gave off a mortality signal, Becker said.

“There’s a high probability that that animal is still alive and doing well,” he said.

Uncertain about Lookout Pack

It is unclear how many wolves are now in the Lookout Pack, according to wildlife officials. Fitkin said he conducted a howling survey in the Lookout territory in late summer, and received howling responses from what sounded like “a minimum of three or four pups.”

Becker said wildlife officials might try to collar another Lookout Pack member next summer.

Last winter, the Lookout Pack was believed to have four members — two adults, one pup and one juvenile wolf between one and two years old.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf recovery regions in the state.

A successful breeding pair of wolves is defined as an adult male and an adult female with at least two pups surviving to Dec. 31 in a given year.

Because the Lookout Pack had only one surviving pup last year, the Lookout wolves were not considered a successful breeding pair. The remains of one pup were found in an area burned over during the Carlton Complex Fire in July 2014. It was unknown what happened to other pups, if there were any.

Biologists aren’t sure how many wolves are in the Lookout Pack at this time, but estimate two to four adults and an unknown number of pups. If the pack does not have both a breeding male and female this year, it would not qualify as a successful breeding pair, even if there were multiple pups.

The Lookout Pack had up to 10 members in 2008, the year it was confirmed as the first gray wolf pack in Washington in more than 30 years. Over the next year the pack was decimated by poaching, until only the breeding pair and one yearling survived in 2009.

The breeding pair, which had been collared in 2008, had both disappeared by 2011. The Lookout Pack, named for Lookout Mountain, travels through a territory estimated by biologists at about 350 square miles extending roughly from Black Canyon in the south to Little Bridge Creek in the north.

3 Arrested for Poisoning Famous Lions in Kenya

AP_Cecil_mm_150730_16x9_992

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan authorities have arrested three Maasai herdsmen for allegedly poisoning a famous pride of lions, killing two, in the Masai Mara Game Reserve after the lions killed two of their cows, officials said Tuesday.

A fourth suspect is still at large, said Moses Kuyioni, the reserve’s chief warden.

The lions attacked the herdsmen’s cattle in the park in western Kenya on Sunday night, Kuyioni said. The men are suspected of setting out poisoned meat for the lions. Two lions from a pride known as the Marsh Pride died, said the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The Marsh Pride was featured in the popular BBC television series “Big Cat Diary” which aired from 1996 to 2008. Zoologist Jonathan Scott, who co-presented the series and has been following the pride since 1977 mourned the deaths in a post on his website titled “The Marsh Lions: End of an Era.”

The poisoning not only affected the lions but will move through the food chain, said wildlife expert, Paula Kahumbu. Six vultures were found dead near the poisoned meat. Other scavengers such as jackals, hyenas, and smaller predators will be feeding on the dead animals, too, Kahumbu said.

Land division and urbanization have reduced the traditional grazing lands of the Maasai herdsmen who have responded by allowing their cattle to browse on the plains of the game reserves.

Kenya’s lion population has declined to about 2,000, largely because of human wildlife-conflict, said Kahumbu.

“Lions generally cannot coexist with humans, which is why protected areas are so vital. Sadly in Mara the pastoralists are entering the reserve nightly to graze livestock, so of course lions get killed,” Kahumbu said.

In order to conserve Kenya’s remaining lions, Kahumbu said, there should be zero tolerance for cattle grazing in parks.

More: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/12/08/world/africa/ap-af-kenya-lions-poisoned.html?_r=0

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