Nearly 1000 a people have been killed or maimed by lions in Tanzania in the past 15 years, a study says.
The encroachment of humans in the predators’ environment has resulted in the dramatic increase, the study published in the latest edition of Nature magazine said.
In total, 563 Tanzanians have died and 308 have been injured in lion attacks since 1990.
Forty per cent of the attacks occurred during the harvest season, when farmers slept in the field in make-shift huts to ward off wild pigs, the joint study by the University of Minnesota and Tanzania’s Wildlife Research Institute found.
According to the team of researchers, led by Dr Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota’s Lion Research Centre, lions which traditionally prey on the wild pigs have found their food source dwindling because of spreading human activity.
As a result, they have taken to dragging people from their beds, attacking mothers with babies or children playing outside, and pouncing on people going to their outdoor toilets.
One victim in five is a child younger than 10, the authors said.
In large part, the rise in attacks can be linked to Tanzania’s growing number of humans, which has jumped from 23 million in 1988 to 35 million today.
This has reduced the hunting grounds of the lions, of which Tanzania has the biggest population in all of Africa.
The issue has created a problem for biologists and ecologists, whose aim of preserving Africa’s lions is dogged by fears the felines engender in local communities.