We had 10 collars to fit to lions during the survey so, once we were sure we had properly counted and recorded all the lions in the group, if we had an opportunity to dart an adult, we did so. In total, in the two week survey we managed to collar 8 cats: 4 adult females and 4 males.
In general the immobilisations went very well and the lions were back on the bait as soon as they recovered from the drugs. Here are some pictures of some of the lion collaring exercise:
We used a red filtered spotlight to light the animals for darting: they looked pretty eerie!
In most cases, after initially jumping up as the dart hit, the lions returned to the bait where they fell asleep.
We then fitted the collars, took blood and other samples and treated any serious looking injuries. In most cases the lions were reversed after about an hour and all recovered without a problem.
We’ll be getting a student in in the next few months to monitor these lions in an effort to investigate the impact of different hunting strategies on lion family groups, and also to work on mitigating human-lion conflict when lions kill livestock. It’s a sister project to the wild dog project, and will provide great information for the wild dog project as well, because of the impact of lions on the wild dogs.
The lion team was generously hosted by Chishakwe and Sango Ranches for most of the survey: thanks also to Humani, Senuko and Hammond Camps for having beds ready for us when we pitched up filthy and exhausted in the middle of the night!