As the two rangers rounded a bend in the road in the Madikwe Private Game Reserve; they came across two young males lions circling a lone buffalo cow and very small calf. Fortunately for the two buffalo, the lions took off as soon as they spotted the two rangers. The buffalo mother was ready to defend her calf with her last strength. Her calf was in a ticket and she paced up and and down making it very clear that she was not happy with their presence. The rangers called in and explained the situation. This buffalo and calf was clearly in trouble. The cow was limping quite badly and had some scratches she obviously got when the lions tried to bring her down. Fresh blood was dripping on the ground and the rangers knew the moment they had left, the lions would return and it was only a matter of time before both animals were killed by predators.
The radio crackled and the rangers were notified that a veterinarian working for a game capture unit at the time, was on her way and that they had to just wait for her arrival. The plan was to dart both animals and take them to the holding bomas. Both mother and calf were disease free buffalo and quite valuable and seeing that the capture unit was in the reserve catching buffalo for relocation, it was no big deal to dart mom and calf.
An hour later both buffalo were in the holding bomas, but the news was not too good. The mother had a broken front foot and she was very old; with hardly a tooth left in her mouth. Her physical condition was also very poor as a direct result of her age and possibly the discomfort and pain related to the broken bones inside her foot. The little calf, quite bewildered was a little male. It was clear that the buffalo could not be returned to the wild as it was unlikely either would survive and to prolong the cow’s discomfort and obvious pain was not humane. An instruction was given to the veterinarian to put both animals to sleep.
This particular game capture unit, however had worked with us in the past and our founder trustee used to work with the same unit for quite some time. A request was put to the Madikwe management to find out if they would allow the capture unit to donate the two animals to SanWild instead. They agreed and Sean Rambert made the call to ask if we could take both mother and calf. He explained the situation and without a moment’s hesitation we opted to fly down to Madikwe with a local farmer to treat the cow and make arrangements for the care for both buffalo in the bomas for a required quarantine period.
On arrival Bruce’s mom was darted and the broken foot treated. All we could do was to open the foot and remove all the floating broken bones and treat her with long acting anti-biotics. Although she was never going to be able to return to the wild, boma rest and veterinary care would be sufficient to help her overcome the infection and alleviate her pain. She was not going to live too long anymore, but for now, we wanted to buy time for both her and her small calf. Maybe, just maybe she would live long enough for her calf to be raised by her until he was old enough to be weaned.
Their quarantine period of 21 days will start today and as soon as they have tested negative for the relevant diseases, they will be relocated to SanWild.