Rangers kill lions that ate villagers

AP, HARARE

Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - Page 6

Wildlife rangers in Zimbabwe said on Friday three lions that killed two people near a suburb in the northern resort town of Kariba have been caught and put down.

The state wildlife department said a lioness and two “sub-adult” cubs between two and three years old were baited into traps and given lethal injections using darts late on Thursday.

Rangers said the mother was lame from an injured leg that was badly swollen and was scarred from wresting itself free from an illegal wire animal trap set by poachers to catch smaller animals. The wounds accounted for the pride roaming close to Kariba’s Mahombekombe township suburb, they said.

The lions devoured the body of one man on Tuesday and killed a woman, whose male companion escaped unhurt.

On Wednesday, rangers put the town on the shores of Lake Kariba, a man-made hydroelectric dam popular for fishing and tourism, on a full rogue lion alert. A zebra, among lions’ usual prey, was shot as bait for the animals.

Police in Kariba said on Friday that a ranger laying the bait was accidentally shot in the leg when colleagues opened fire on lions seen stalking toward him.

The wildlife department had warned townspeople against walking at night and crossing through thickets of bush where lions conceal themselves. It urged people in the area only to use wide and established roads.

Warning fliers distributed since Wednesday also warned “beer drinkers to avoid moving around at night on foot.”

With a recent growth of outdoor Christian groups and religious and other tribal sects, the fliers advised their followers to “stop going for secretive prayers in thick vegetation” in and around the town.

One of the lions’ victims on Tuesday was a 70-year-old man headed for a bar on the outskirts of the township, and the dead woman had surreptitiously gone into the bush for a tryst with a lover, neighbors said.

Lion attacks are not common close to urban settlements. In the past, elephants have roamed into Kariba’s suburbs, causing several deaths in recent years. Victims were often heading home from late-night taverns and bars.