To address human–wildlife conflicts and the related threat of extinction of the African lion, in 2003, the Maasailand Preservation Trust established a fund at the Mbirikani Group Ranch in southern Kenya to provide monetary compensation for livestock killed by wildlife. In this paper, the policy arrangement approach (PAA) is used to analyse this arrangement as a form of payment for environmental services (PES). Although there has been a considerable reduction in the number of lions killed, the analysis reveals several limitations of this arrangement, including three main side effects, namely it has initiated a process that is difficult to sustain or reverse, created a new cycle of dependence and widened the gap between different groups in the community. In conclusion, the drawbacks of this type of compensation fund must be addressed by combining such arrangements with other public and private policies and initiatives. Careful examination and comparison of different kinds of experiments with PES-like arrangements are required to further build understanding of the potential and different contributions of public and private, market-based initiatives in biodiversity governance.