NAIROBI (Reuters) - Two Kenyan men have been charged with killing two lions and poisoning at least six others, a Kenyan wildlife official said on Tuesday, in a case involving a pride of lions which starred in a long-running BBC wildlife documentary.
Simindei Naurobi and Kulankash Topotat pleaded not guilty to the charges, but could face prison terms and big fines if found guilty. They were denied bail as investigations into the poisonings were underway.
"The dead lions are feared to have consumed poisoned meat," said Paul Udoto, spokesman for Kenya's Wildlife Service (KWS). "One of the dead lions was identified while the other one had been mauled by hyenas beyond recognition."
Conservationists say among the poisoned lions were members of the Marsh pride, which have featured in a BBC documentary, Big Cat Diaries.
The poisonings took place inside Kenya's famed Maasai Mara game park, where human-wildlife conflict has raised tensions with local Maasai herdsmen who often complain wild animals kill their cattle.
"We worked round the clock to save them but unfortunately they succumbed to poisoning. Others are still on treatment and are in stable condition," said Dr Campaign Limo, the head of KWS veterinary team in Maasai Mara.
In 2010 more than a dozen lions were killed through poisoning in the Maasai Mara park. Herdsmen blamed them for devouring their livestock.
Nick Murero, chairman of the Narok County Wildlife and Environment Forum, condemned the poisonings and asked locals to desist from taking law in their hands even when aggrieved.
"Wild animals are important to the local and national economy. Killing them is just like killing the goose that lays golden eggs," he said.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Richard Balmforth)