The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Communications Director, Paul Udoto has tweeted that a lioness and her cub were now safely back at the Nairobi National Park.
He said two other lions were “suspected” of having sneaked back into the park before dawn.
The story of the six lions which escaped from the park and were thought to be roaming Nairobi’s streets dominated social media in the Kenyan capital on Friday.
Udoto, who himself admitted that he had gone underground “like the lions”, only began responding on social media a couple of hours after the story broke and social media was awash with news of the escaped big cats.
“Today I am underground like the missing lions. Try other contacts @kwskenya,” he had tweeted on his Twitter account @pauludoto.
This ill-thought out response earned the wrath of Kenyans who criticised KWS’ handling of the potentially dangerous situation.
One of these shocked Kenyans was Robin Njogu (@robinnjogu) who tweeted: “@pauludoto I always thought you were a PR guru, going underground when there is a crisis is a new low for @kwskenya”.
Udoto, who appeared to be displeased that a case of lions gone missing in action had disrupted his day tweeted: “These born town lions can really cause a scare! They lose their way from Simba Saloon at Carnivore Restaurant and keep my phone ringing.”
Udoto did, however, tweet that the public should not confront the lions in the event of a chance encounter. His tweet read: “Lions are dangerous wild animals. Don’t confront them when you encounter them. Report on toll free numbers.”
As evidenced in an edited sample (below) of the comments on Facebook and Twitter, Kenyans of all walks of life, including wildlife conservation experts, aired their views on the unfolding situation.
Some Kenyans complained about KWS’ response to the situation and said their toll free numbers were not working.
Retweeted Nikunj Shah (@mt_kenya): “@kwskenya @pauludoto @Samooner Are your toll free numbers actually working?? Nimejaribu”.
Many others feared for their children’s safety given that Friday was a school day and there were many schools in the Langata area of Nairobi where the lions were being searched for.
One Kenyan resident, Carol Gakii (@CarolGakii) tweeted a question to Udoto: “@pauludoto hey I hear there are lions on the loose should I lock my kids in???” to which Udoto responded from his @pauludoto account “Yes, please do until we report lions have been captured and safely returned to the park. Perils of born town lions.”
Another anxious resident, John Kisimir (@Johnkisimir) tweeted to ask KWS and Udoto:”@kwskenya Where are the lions. It has been 11 hours now. Any news? @pauludoto @nsalenta”.
Udoto had informed Kenyans via Twitter that a “Search and rescue mission for missing lion underway. Avoid provoking the lions by confronting them. Report to @kwskenya toll free 0800597000”.
Other social media users saw the humour in the situtaion and Geoffrey Khaemba (@jeffkhaemba) sent Udoto a lighthearted tweet: “@pauludoto give me one cub i would like to keep it as a pet.whats the procedure?”
Another user, Edward Jemes (@EdwardJemes) thanked Udoto for his interesting advice on staying away from the lions and tweeted: @pauludoto thanks for the advice. How can I befriend lions? Offer free beer? #kenya”
Some Kenyans wondered if all the missing lions were safely back in the park. A tweeter known as Humorous Artist (@artist_humorous) tweeted: “@pauludoto @kwskenya did you get them all?”
Peterson Wanaswa (@PetersonWanasw1) lamented how human civilisation was destroying the natural habitat of wildlife: “@paulakahumbu @pauludoto @kwskenya. The results of encroaching the wild animals habitat.A displacement reaction has occurred.#ThinkingLoud”
The concern over the escaped lions revealed how conscious Kenyans are of the importance of conserving their wildlife heritage, and Kenyans appealed for the lions to be returned safely and not shot. Shamit Patel (@just_sham_it) tweeted that he was “Seriously worried about the lions though. People infuriatingly don’t understand the importance of our wildlife.”
A Twitter user @KeyurJobanputra tweeted: “@kwskenya @pauludoto please ‘capture’ the lions alive and return them to the park.
Haron (@Haron26) asked Udoto: “@pauludoto @kwskenya Why aren’t the Lions fitted with RFID tags for easy tracking?” – a fact that some Kenyans and global wildlife conservationists must have pondered.
The organisation, WheelPower (@shecyclesnbi) suggested some changes to the park’s safety features were needed: “Need to encourage @kwskenya to secure park and neighbours with better culvert design. @pauludoto”.
As news of the lions who were found in Kiberia, Nairobi, as they were returned to the Nairobi National Park began to emerge, some social media users started to praise efforts to bring the situation under control.
Caroline Mathu (@CarolineMathu) tweeted: “@pauludoto @kwskenya Really great to see the public help. We actually care a lot for our wildlife, our pride.”
The Nairobi National Park is located along Langata Road and the Southern bypass and is perhaps the only wildlife park in the world that you can visit by taxi or bus. Inside the park reside lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffalos, hippos, zebra, giraffes and gazelle among other wildlife.”