A Roaring Success!

Earlier this August the Welgevonden Research team, along with Vet Nurse Students from Writtle College University, were en route to the south of the Reserve, in search of a particular rhino individual. The plan was to simply dart the individual, collect DNA samples, and notch the ears for identification purposes. But as is usually the case in conservation research, plans are often subject to change.

Each rhino individual on the Reserve is carefully monitored. They receive notches on their ears, or special ID codes, that help our rhino monitor keep track of their movement and general condition.

Before arriving at the destination of the rhino intervention, the team spotted one of Welgevonden’s beloved male lions roaring down Lily Dam Road. When this lion was released onto the Reserve, he was fitted with a nifty GSM tracking collar for the purposes of monitoring his movement, behaviour and general adaptation to his new surroundings. He has since found a lovely lady to call his own, adopted her cubs and established a relatively fixed territory in the southern region of the reserve. In theory, he shouldn’t be moving far away from this area any time soon and no longer requires a tracking collar.

The dominant male lion in the south – often referred to as “Dinokeng” by our guides

With a vet present on the Reserve, it was decided that after the rhino intervention, the team would head out in search of this male lion and make use of the opportunity to remove his collar. The team had a relatively good idea as to where this male was, right? Turns out the stealthy cat had other plans and it took the team an exceptionally long time to find him again (it was difficult to even find the collar’s signal from the vantage point of the helicopter!).

Thankfully, the magnificent male was eventually found! Dr. Peter Caldwell darted the animal with the relevant anesthetic drugs, rendering the lion unconscious for the purposes of the procedure. Once asleep, the Research Volunteers and Vet Nurse students were allowed to move in and assist with the operation.

Carmen Warmenhove, one of Welgevonden’s research coordinators, mentioned that they were lucky to have removed the collar when they did – the collar, invisible under the lion’s shaggy mane, was becoming tight around its neck. The vet also found an abscess from an old wound on the lion’s back (possibly a bite from another lion) which he cleaned out and treated. Immuno-boosters and vaccinations were administered and once the group had taken sufficient photographs, he proceeded to administer the reversal drugs and the team departed.

The lion was found again the very next day – happy as can be and surrounded by his girls.