Poison Takes Toll On Africa's Lions

Kenyan Cattle Herders Are Using The American Pesticide Furadan To Kill The Predators

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Last year, they were too late in reaching an old herder whose cow had been killed. The herder laced the carcass with poison, knowing the lions would return to finish their meal.

That night, Sengale and Birdie, two collared lions the Guardians knew well, feasted on it. If the carcass was poisoned with Furadan, they wouldn't have suspected it because Furadan has no taste and no smell. It didn't take long before the lions were found dead; Birdie was pregnant with five cubs.

Cows are a cash crop in Kenya. They put food on the table, and they send kids to school. Mengistu Sekeret and his friends all lost cows to lions. That turned them into lion killers.

Asked how one kills a lion, Sekeret told Simon, "In very silent way."

"What is the silent way?" Simon asked.

"Actually, we use the poison," Sekeret said, explaining that it is very effective.

One poisoned lion captured on camera could barely walk. Its nervous system was shutting down, so it was put down by vets from the Kenyan Wildlife Service who conducted an autopsy.

The official government chemist's analysis found Furadan in the lion's stomach. A subsequent report by the agency that regulates pesticides in Kenya did not mention that finding and claimed that Furadan was not connected.

When 60 Minutes asked Mengistu Sekeret and his friends about Furadan, they didn't recognize the name, but knew exactly what it looked like.

He told Simon they call it "the blue stuff" and that that is actually the common name.

Simon showed them a bottle of Furadan to make sure we were talking about the same thing.

"Oh wow, it's the one," one of the men replied, after seeing the purplish-blue chemical.

Sekeret and his friends wouldn't have any trouble finding Furadan: it can be bought in towns and villages all over Kenya in stores called "Agro-Vets," which sell agricultural products, including pesticides.

But when Simon tried buying Furadan with 60 Minutes cameras rolling, the shopkeepers told him they didn't have it in stock, so we decided to go undercover with a hidden camera.