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11 lions are killed in a suspected poison attack, dealing a major blow to conservation efforts

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A lion and lioness in a tree at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

(CNN) – Lions are in peril.

They’re losing their natural habitats. They’re being poached to death. And, in Africa, their population has declined 90% in the last 75 years.

That’s why the news out of Uganda is troubling: A suspected poison attack has killed 11 lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The deaths are a major blow to not just the country’s economy but also its lion preservation efforts.

The carcasses of 8 cubs and three lionesses, all from the same pride, were found scattered in the fishing village of Hamukungu, in southwest Uganda, last week, according to Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.

The lions are suspected to have eaten poisoned meat given to them by local villagers, the ministry said. Local reports said the villagers may have killed the lions for attacking one of their cows.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible such an act of deliberately killing animals,” Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s tourism and wildlife minister, said.

“It is… unfortunate that such an economically vibrant resource is maliciously being exterminated by selfish Individuals that are negative towards the development of the communities and the country at large,” he said in a statement.

Nature tourism contributes $1.4 billion to Uganda’s economy, according to the ministry.

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