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Data from: Maasai pastoralists kill lions in retaliation for depredation of livestock by lions

Cite this dataset

Ontiri, Enoch M. et al. (2019). Data from: Maasai pastoralists kill lions in retaliation for depredation of livestock by lions [Dataset]. Dryad.


The borders of national parks in Kenya are hotspots for human–wildlife conflict. The deliberate killing of lions by Maasai pastoralists is illegal, but continues despite mitigation attempts. Currently, there is a somewhat pervasive opinion, within the human–wildlife conflict literature, that lions are killed by Maasai people either as cultural ceremony or indiscriminately in response to the loss of livestock. We reconsider the indiscriminate reputation of lion‐killing, using a combination of structured dialogue and quantitative analysis. Focus group discussions with Maasai pastoralists in three different pastoral regions, performed by in‐country experts, minimized the risk of cross‐cultural misinterpretation through a platform of shared Kenyan heritage. In our survey of 213 Maasai pastoralist communities, we found universal agreement that humans and lions should coexist in Kenya. Maasai communities distinguished among drought, disease, theft, loss and depredation as drivers of livestock losses. Maasai also distinguished among predatory species that take their livestock. The only cause of livestock loss that provoked increased killing of lions, was depredation by lions. Lion‐killing was not provoked by other predatory species. We found regional variation in the baseline probability of lion‐killing, and discuss the sources of this variation. The probability of lion‐killing increases as an act of retribution for predation of livestock that discriminates among species of carnivore. This, coupled with universal acceptance of coexistence between lions and Maasai pastoralists, should guide mitigation strategies for human–wildlife interactions in Kenya and beyond.

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