sabi sabi ranger stories

ranger teamwork saves the life of a male lion

On the morning of the seventh of January 2001 one of the Sabi- Sabi rangers tracked and found a male lion. It was an incredibly hot day so she assumed that the lion was escaping the sun by lying in a dense thicket. On closer inspection the ranger observed that the male lion had been snared and cut severely around his neck. The male lion was in facttrying to escape the flies pestering his wounded neck.

After the safari’s general manager and head ranger were contacted the decision was taken to step in and aid the male lion, hopefully to full recovery.

One of our philosophies at Sabi-Sabi is that man will not interfere with any natural injury of a wild animal except if man was the cause of the injury. The State veterinarian Dr Dewalt Keet was notified and came to our assistance. It was decided that we would immobilize the male lion with a dart gun fired from a vehicle, as this was the safest and easiest method. A wounded lion is comparable to a time bomb with four legs. The drug we would use to immobilize this cat in this instance was Zoletil.

The dart was fired and hit the lion in the rump; one should always try and use the hindquarters and rump as a dart site. Abdominal and chest dart placement can be fatal. Once darted it took literally less than five minutes and the lion was out cold. The rangers waited in anticipation for another five minutes before disembarking from the Land rover, just to be on the safe side! Animals should not be pursued once darted as this will lead to undue stress and over heating.

Dr Dewalt Keet and the ranger team got to work quickly, the snare, an old bicycle brake cable which had inflicted a five-centimetre cut the entire way around the neck, was removed. The next part of the operation was to remove the maggots from the open flesh wound and clean it up. This poor creature had been in this condition for approximately one week. After the neck was cleaned and disinfected the dart wound was also cleaned and treated with a long acting anti-biotic. Due to the lion enduring so much pain and suffering he had lost condition, the drug Zoletil would normally knock an animal out for approximately one to two hours, in this instance we would have to wait far longer.

Dr Dewalt Keet recommended that we should give the male lion a meal to put him back on his feet and ensure his survival. An adult impala was shot and placed near the male lion before he woke so that he would not associate humans and vehicles with food. Eventually four hours later he came to. The instinct to live was incredible; before the male lion could even stand he clawed himself towards the impala carcass and started feeding.

The male lion was seen three days later, looking remarkably stronger and full of life, for the ranger team this was extremely rewarding and definitely a topic of discussion for many moons to come. One can only wonder if the male lion would remember or associate individual’s faces or voices that assisted him during his ordeal?

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