Have Kenya’s urbanized lions lost their spine?

By Gatonye Gathura
Rocket Sciencelost lions
It was a happy anticlimax when six ‘wild’ lions gently returned to their home at the Nairobi National Park after an incident-free stroll in a highly populated area within the city.

But the lions behaviour may raise questions as to whether the King of the Jungle at Nairobi National Park has lost its ferocity and if so why.

This happened at a time some scholars have questioned the wisdom of high exposure of wildlife to humans as happens at the Nairobi National Park.

They argue that the now popular eco-tourism is changing wildlife behavior and putting them in danger of predators including poachers.

In a paper published in journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution Benjamin Geffroy of the Federal University of Mato Grasso in Brazil and his colleagues strongly felt nature tourism making wildlife docile.

The team argued that the sustained presence of humans near the wildlife makes it less fearful of us or anything else. That could increase the likelihood that animals get killed by predators or poachers.

Animals may also change behavior when they move into human habitats and become urbanized, as may have happened with animals at the highly visited Nairobi Park.

With this kind of interactions, the team asks whether the animal is able to tell the difference between a tourist armed with a camera and a poacher armed with a gun.

The team wants wildlife managers to reconsider whether letting humans get close to the animals is such a great idea. “It might bring more money in, but at a cost we don’t really want to pay.”

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