Image by Corey Leopold via Flickr CC
In what is being called the largest wildlife relocation in Africa's history, 4,000 zebras and 3,000 wildebeest are getting rounded up and moved into Amboseli National Park in Kenya, where a drought has caused a massive drop in animal numbers. With the loss of herbivores, starving lions and hyenas are turning their sights onto cattle, which means herdsmen are killing off lions.The massive restocking of herbivores is an attempt to turn the predators' attention back to their natural prey and to keep herders from killing off members of a fragile lion population.According to the AFP, Kenya Wildlife Service reported that not only are herders losing their livestock - as much as 80% of their herds - due to drought, but they're also facing more lion attacks. Lions aren't finding much help in surviving by turning to cattle, though - as of August herders were killing as many as 100 lions a year in retaliation for attacks on cattle. However, the lions are only turning to cattle because their preferred prey is disappearing as a long drought takes its toll.
Save The Lions - Sacrifice The Zebras
A fast solution to help the lions is to renew the herbivore population. BBC reports, "Rangers are using helicopters to herd them into enclosures and load them on to lorries in a month-long operation. Analysts say it is one of the largest relocations of animals ever in Africa."
Rangers hope to have the several thousand animals relocated to the wildlife park by the end of the month. The zebras and wildebeest will have to face the trauma of travel, of surviving in a drought-stricken area, and being handed over to a very hungry population of lions. Odds aren't in their favor, but perhaps it can bring an overall balance to the ecosystem and take pressure off both the predators and the herdsmen. At this point, the fragile lion populations take priority over the more plentiful zebra and wildebeest species.