AFRICAN LIONS WILL BECOME EXTINCT IF POISONINGS DON'T STOP SAYS UC BERKELEY PROFESSOR -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Kenyan Cattle Herders are Using the American Pesticide Furadan to Kill the Predators
The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct, says an American wildlife biologist from the University of California, Berkeley. The main reason, says Dr. Laurence Frank, is that in parts of Africa the big cats are being poisoned at an alarming rate, mostly with a cheap American pesticide. Frank appears in a Bob Simon report on endangered Kenyan lions to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 1 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
African lions numbered some 200,000 in the late 1980s but now are estimated to be in the 30,000 range. Simon accompanied Frank on a trip into the Kenyan bush to assess the lion population. "We know of 30-plus poisonings just in this area in the last five or six years. We have data on another 35 or 40 poisonings in our other study area," he tells Simon. "But that's got to be just the tiny tip of the iceberg." With the lion already under threat, Frank fears the worst if the poisonings don't stop. "I'm suggesting that the lion in Africa will become extinct." Click here for an excerpt.
Cattle herders trying to protect their livelihoods from predators are carrying out the poisonings, which aside from lions also kill other animals, like hyenas and vultures. Simon talked to some who spoke freely about how they protected their cows. Mengistu Seketet explained. "[We kill lions] in a very silent way. Actually, we use the poison...it's very effective," says the herder. "We call it the 'blue stuff.'" Shown a bottle of the American-made pesticide Furadan that sells for two dollars a bottle in Kenya, Seketet smiled. "Oh, wow, that's the one," he tells Simon.
The agricultural pesticide Furadan, even when used as directed, is estimated to have killed millions of birds in the U.S., prompting the EPA to restrict its use. The UK and Europe have banned the chemical in its granular form, but in Africa it's perfectly legal to use as a pesticide. It's often used illegally, however -- less than a dollar's worth of the granular type can kill a whole family of lions. FMC, its manufacturer, stopped exporting it to Kenya after reports of poisonings surfaced there last year.
FMC would not speak on camera, but in a written statement said that it condemned the use of Furadan to kill predatory wildlife, pointing out that the label on the product clearly outlines its proper use. Further, the company said that its pesticide is important to the sustainability of agriculture in Kenya.
This is not good enough for Richard Leakey, the famous conservationist, whose major concern is for the lions and the wildlife Kenya's tourism sector depends on. He wants Furadan banned. "It's irresponsible to put on the market something that is so utterly dangerous to wildlife in a country where wildlife is so critical for our economic future."