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A Facebook post by the Ruaha Carnivore Project has announced that six lions have been poisoned and killed just outside of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania.
The project - which is a collaboration with the Tanzania Carnivore Monitoring Project and is based at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology - was initiated with the aim of learning more about the status and conservation of large carnivores in Tanzania's Ruaha landscape.
The Facebook post read: "We are deeply saddened to report a mass poisoning incident in the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) just outside Ruaha National Park.
"We received a 'mortality alert' from one of our collared lions, and the team responded rapidly. When they arrived at the site, they found a devastating scene - six lions (the collared adult female, three sub-adult females and two sub-adult males) had been killed, apparently from poison as they were all found close to a scavenged cattle carcass.
"This event had additional tragic consequences, with dozens of critically endangered vultures found dead or badly affected."
The organisation posted that it appeared to be a kind of revenge attack after lions had killed some cows: "The authorities are investigating this incident, but it appears as if someone poisoned a carcass after lions attacked cattle. Alarmingly, poisoning is a common response to conflict, and this highlights how vital it is to do all we can to prevent carnivore attacks on stock, and reduce chances of retaliatory killings.
"Cattle are extremely important to local people, and carnivores can cause major economic and cultural hardship when they attack stock - and, when people don't benefit from lions, it is unsurprising that they resort to killing them.
"Thanks to support from many partners, we have made great progress in reducing such attacks, for example by predator-proofing enclosures and engaging communities, but there is much more to be done across the landscape, and protecting grazing livestock is particularly challenging.
"It is also vital to secure the Wildlife Management Areas and - probably most important of all - make sure that local people receive real benefits from wildlife, so they eventually see them as more of an asset alive than dead."
The pictures posted alongside the statement show the true devastation of the poisoning. One photo shows one of the dead lions lying on its back, while the other is of a pile of dead vultures, all of whom had inadvertently been poisoned.
The announcement comes just days after a poacher was eaten alive by the lions he was hunting in South Africa.
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