Bibi the lioness, a member of a famous Marsh pride that has been filmed by the BBC for years, was found dead from poisoning at Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve Monday.
The cat, who had been missing since Sunday, was discovered “lying on her side, foaming at the mouth, fitting and panting,” according to a BBC wildlife crew that was present when Bibi was found.
The BBC reported that at least six other lions in the Marsh pride may also have been poisoned. Sienna, another lioness, is still unaccounted for, and her two-year-old cub is being treated.
Poisoning has been attempted before as part of an effort by local Maasai farmers — who have increasingly been bringing their livestock to feed on the reserve’s lands — to prevent attacks by the lions on their cattle.
National Geographic reported on the cattle herding issue, in which landowners have sold some of their plots for high prices for tourism purposes and wildlife preserves, yet continue to bring their cattle to graze on the land after dark. Nighttime is also when predators such as lions come out to prowl, sometimes attacking the livestock.
At least two people have been arrested in the current incident, National Geographic reported. The suspected poison used by the attackers is carbofuran, a pesticide which is known to be toxic to vertebrate animals and humans.
Bibi and her Marsh pride were the focus of the popular BBC series “Big Cat Diary,” which ran from 1996 to 2008 and drew millions of viewers. The series followed the pride over the years, as it grew and dealt with challenges such as scarcity of food and competition with other lion groups.
According to “The Complete Book of Pet Names” by George Greenfield, the name Bibi is an East African female name that means “daughter of a king,” and also a wahili word that means “lady” or “grandmother.”
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