Tag Archives: lion collaring

First time to see lions

Hi folks,

I have some friends with me at the moment from Guruve Ltd – ethical promoters of African art.  Having been to Africa for 12 years, Tim hasn’t ever seen a lion! So, as you know, I am running a lion project here as well as the wild dog project, and have a few collars left to go on, so we gave it a go with Tim & Emma to see if we would be lucky.

Rosemary & Tim with the bait

We set up a bait in the very south west corner of Chishakwe Ranch – where the wild dog project is based.  We had a great scout, Witness, with us, who had seen lion tracks in the area the day before, not far from a lovely little dam.  So we set everything up and started calling….

Setting up the bait

After about 1 and a half hours we had had no response other than a peacefully browsing herd of eles in the background, but just then, in answer to a lion roar that I had been playing over the loud speakers, the bush erupted in a roaring duet from either side of the car! That woke everyone up!

The first group of lions that came in looked like 3 adult females but we couldnt see them very well as they stayed well in the background, showing no interest in the bait.

After another half an hour or so of trying to bring them in, we were just discussing whether to pack up for the night when we saw one of the females (or possibly a new female) come out of the bushes with a young adult male with her.  Although she was still wary, the presence of the male emboldened her and after a while she came up and started feeding on the bait.  Tim and Emma were both hugely excited – finally a proper sighting of a wild African lion – albeit an eerily red one in the red-filtered spotlight!

lion at the bait

But we don’t do things by halves here (:)) so after a few minutes of watching the lioness I darted her so that we could collar her.  The dart hit well and she went to sleep not far from the bait, which was great.  The collaring went well and we were pleased to note she was a very healthy lioness who appeared to be quite heavily pregnant.

sleeping lion

The reason we are collaring these lions is for part of a conservation-research project; to try and determine the impact of different hunting strategies on lion demographics and behavior, and also to try and reduce some of the human-lion conflict occurring on our boundary areas.

So, Chishakwe is clearly the pace to be for some excitement – and Tim and Emma were thrilled with experience!

Tim helping Rosemary with the lionBack soon,

Rosemary

Lion collaring in Save Valley Conservancy

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!

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In most cases, after initially jumping up as the dart hit, the lions returned to the bait where they fell asleep.

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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.

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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!

Lion collaring in Gonarezhou – Part 1

Hi folks,

As most of you will know, we have been concerned for some time about the very low number of lions in Gonarezhou National Park.  We’ve been working in the park for three years now, gathering data on all the large carnivores there and last year we formally established a lion project, with the aim of  increasing the lion population in the park through mitigating the threats.

Part of the project involves monitoring the lions to look at litter sizes, cub survival, causes of adult mortality, group composition and fragmentation, as well as to allow us to react more effectively to incidences where lions come into conflict with humans.  In order to do this monitoring we need to get some collars on to the lions, so we can find them.

So we set off into the park for a week of trying to catch lions!  Here is the team packed and ready to go….

Packed to head off into the bush for the lion darting week

The collaring was a task I was not looking forward to – envisaging lots of long, cold, unproductive nights trying to call lions in without any luck.  As it turned out, we were extremely lucky and in the week we were in the park we managed to dart six lions and collar three of them (the other three were darted for veterinary disease testing or, in one case, treatment of an injury).

The first step each evening was to set up the bait and thorn-scrub screen and tie the bait tightly to the tree and/or stakes to prevent the lions running off with it.

Tying up the donkey bait

Next we set up our calling equipment – the noise of a dying buffalo calf is broadcast over speakers to attract the lions to the bait.

Setting up the call up equipment

And once everything is ready, we sit and wait…  These photos are taken on the second night of calling – in total we had four lions at the bait that night: two adult females, one adult male and one subadult male.  We use a spotlight with a red filter to avoid disturbing the animals.

Lions on the bait

Lions on the bait at night

Once we had identified a suitable individual for collaring I darted him/her and got on with the business of collaring and taking blood samples etc.

I’ll post pictures of that part of the exercise in the next post…

Cheers,

Rosemary