In the village of Kimugandura, located in Laikipia County, a remarkable incident unfolded involving a 60-year-old man named Mzee Rimpaso Legei. He astounded the community by bravely confronting and killing a lioness that had been attacking their livestock.
Mr. Legei recounted his harrowing encounter with the lioness to the Nation. With immense courage, he defended his livestock from the ferocious predator. Recalling the terrifying moment, he said, “The lion pounced on me, striking my head with its powerful paws while attempting to bite my neck. During our brief struggle, I miraculously managed to thrust my spear into its head, instantly killing the lioness.”
Although relieved to have survived the perilous encounter, Mzee Legei expressed regret over the lioness’s death. It was apparent that the animal had strayed from one of the nearby private game reserves and had wreaked havoc on the village’s goats, claiming eight lives within a week. Killing the lioness in self-defense became the only viable option.
The community deeply values wildlife conservation, as it serves as a significant economic driver in the Laikipia North sub-county through tourism, with numerous private and community-run conservancies.
Mzee Legei explained, “When we responded to the distress call, our intention was to chase the lions away from our grazing areas. However, this particular lioness remained defiant and attacked two herders who had approached. It even lunged at me when I attempted to free one of the herders from its grip.”
Ms. Rose Malenya, the deputy director for Laikipia County in the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), labeled these incidents as isolated. She emphasized that despite the region’s high concentration of wildlife, retaliatory attacks by locals are rare because they have learned to coexist with the wild animals that roam freely on the vast plains.
The situation leading to the lioness’s demise was exceptional, with no recent reports of people killing lions or other wildlife due to human-wildlife conflict. The lioness, being old and unable to hunt effectively, had resorted to preying on domestic animals in the grazing areas. In a span of a week, it had attacked four people, including a herder who was injured on the previous Friday in the same area.
Efforts to track the lioness had been made earlier when a report reached the KWS office, and conservancy rangers joined the search. Unfortunately, they were unable to locate the animal before the fateful incident.
On the Tuesday morning when the lioness appeared in the village, it displayed no fear, first mauling a goat and then lingering in the area, ready to target another goat. Young herders fled the scene upon sighting her, but three men were injured during the confrontation, two of whom required admission to Nanyuki Cottage Hospital, while the third was treated and released.
Mzee Legei endured head, leg, and back injuries, while his fellow herder, Tela Murijo, aged 22, suffered a bite wound on his left leg. Both were admitted to the hospital and underwent surgery. Fortunately, doctors reported that their conditions were stable and expected to discharge them in a day or two. The third patient, who suffered injuries to his right leg, had been treated and discharged earlier.
Dr. Navin Raina, the surgeon who operated on the two admitted patients, provided insight into their condition. “Of the two patients currently admitted here, one had two injuries to the skull where the bone was exposed. We took him to the operating theatre, and he is now in a stable condition despite experiencing pain from the injuries. The other patient had a deep bite wound on his left leg, and we also took him to the theatre.”
In conclusion, Mzee Rimpaso Legei’s heroic act to protect his village’s livestock from the attacking lioness stands as a testament to the importance of human-wildlife coexistence and the significance of wildlife conservation in the region.