Why road construction is pushing lions out of Nairobi National Park

A leading Kenyan wildlife expert believes road construction noise is scaring lions out of Nairobi National Park. It could lead to the death of people or the lions.

Ben Curtis/AP/File
In this Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, a male lion looks out over the savannah at dusk prior to being shot with a tranquilizer dart, in order to fit a GPS-tracking collar, by a team led by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. A leading Kenyan wildlife expert believes road construction noise is scaring lions out of Nairobi National Park. It could lead to the death of people or the lions.

A leading Kenyan wildlife expert has said the noise from road construction is scaring lions out of Nairobi National Park and could lead to the death of people or the lions.

A lion injured a 63-old man Friday after it strayed from the Nairobi park into a major highway during the morning rush hour. Kenya Wildlife Service rangers captured and returned it to the park. It was third incident in the last two months of lions straying from the park.

The construction of a road joining two of the city's major highways along the boundary of the Nairobi park is disorienting the lions, said wildlife expert Paula Kahumbu.

"I suspect that the construction along the (southern bypass) is related to this. There is a lot of activity, noise and possibly dust and vibrations. The lions are simply not used to this. Many people fear that the lions will hurt someone and give KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) a reason to close the park and develop it," Kahumbu said.

Kenya Wildlife Service said they are investigating how the lions are leaving park on the side that has an electric fence. Paul Udoto, a wildlife service spokesman, said Saturday that probe will look into whether the lions are being affected the construction of the road and if the fence has been damaged by animals or the local communities.

The government has announced plans to build a railway that will traverse part of the reserve. Conservationists have opposed the railway line, saying it will further damage the wildlife habitat.

Nairobi National Park's 45-square-miles (117-square-kilometers) is home to endangered black rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and diverse birdlife. The animals roam just six miles (10 kilometers) from downtown Nairobi, which lies north of the park.

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