for National Geographic News
The hippos ate grass contaminated by the pesticide, called carbofuran, and the lions became partially paralyzed after eating a hippo carcass, according to the conservation nonprofit WildlifeDirect.
(WildlifeDirect receives some funding from the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
The hippo carcass and one of the lions—which was euthanized—tested positive for the compound, the group said in a statement.
Conservationists are concerned that pastoralists are increasingly using carbofuran to get rid of carnivores that prey on their livestock.
(Related: "Lions, Hyenas Poisoned in Ugandan Park" [August 20, 2007].)
"Incidences of poisoning represent a critical threat against Kenya's wildlife, particularly through the use of carbofuran," the group said.
The use of carbofuran is severely restricted in the United States and Europe because of its extreme toxicity to animals, which can mistake carbofuran granules for seeds.
Yet the pesticide, sold under the brand name Furadan, is cheap and widely available in Kenya.
Anecdotal evidence from WildlifeDirect suggests that carbofuran is used inappropriately in the country.
For example, the group says farmers use the compound on crops that are harvested after 30 days, though the pesticide is meant for crops that take 90 days or more to mature due to the health risks of overexposure.
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