Nairobi: The lion sparked panic on Wednesday after it left its habitat in the Nairobi National Park and found itself in a crowded area in the morning rush hour south of the Kenyan capital.
A young cat was spotted by panicked residents in a trench behind a concrete wall and metal sheets in Ongata Rongai, a residential area bordering the park.
The Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) was called in to intervene and dispatched rangers and veterinary personnel to the scene, where a large crowd gathered to watch the animal.
“The lion was successfully thrown, immobilized, and safely transported to a veterinary facility for observation and collar donation before being released back to the park,” KWS said in a statement.
Some were less than impressed by the unwelcome visitor.
“The panic this lion caused was enormous, because even the children were putting off going to school and people going to work,” said Roselyn Wangare, a university student.
Jackson Mwangi, a resident of Ongata Rongai, said KWS needs to improve safety in the park.
“At the end of the day, this is our safety, the park is poorly guarded, so the animals continue to roam,” he said.
The park is just seven kilometers (four miles) from downtown Nairobi, and it is not uncommon for animals to escape the grassy plains and wander in a chaotic metropolis of more than four million people.
In December 2019, a lion beat a man to death near a park, and in March 2016, another cat was shot and attacked and wounded a neighboring resident.
Just a month earlier, in February 2016, two lions had spent a day wandering through Kibera, a densely populated urban slum, before returning to the park, and even more lions were spotted in the city a few days later.
The park is partially surrounded by an electric fence, but not completely isolated, which allows for the traditional movement of animals in search of pastures.
Endangered wildlife including lions, leopards, rhinos and buffaloes graze in the legendary park against the backdrop of distant skyscrapers.
Big cats are under increasing pressure as one of Africa’s fastest growing cities expands into ancient habitats for migration and hunting.
Conservationists say that lions lived here earlier than people in the area, and do not leave the park or wander into settlements, but rather people have moved to the habitat of lions.