A frantic telephone call; a race against time to save a life! We certainly had a hectic day.
The call for help came in shortly after 06h30am when someone on their way to work came across a large adult male lion caught on a fence line in a poacher’s snare. The tick cable snare was set directly where animals crawled underneath the fence. It was not uncommon to find lions in the area as it was quite close to the provincial game reserves bordering the Kruger National Park. For many years the perimeter fences of these parks have remained in a shocking state of disrepair and it was not uncommon for animals such as lion, buffalo and elephants to escape and roam the adjoining farm lands.
For us it was now a race against time; because when large predators or elephants escaped from protected areas the local nature conservation authorities would in most instances destroy the “escapees” as so-called damaging causing animals. In reality however, it was not unlikely that many of these animals were killed by trophy hunting outfitters and their clients with the permission of the authorities. Quite a few “damage-causing” animals were also destroyed simply because communities would benefit and be given the meat. We simply had to get to this lion first; it was his only chance of survival.
Fortunately, a veterinarian was already on site and we travelled the distance in record time to dart him. Upon arrival we found a totally exhausted and highly stressed animal. Two cars had already stopped and we had to ask members of the public to immediately leave so that we could dart the animal and remove it from the snare. The situation was extremely dangerous as the lion could break the snare at any moment and would not hesitate to attack bystanders. The presence of humans also contributed in a big way to the animal’s stress levels. It was highly agitated, but its pain was obvious. It was bleeding from the mouth and panting very fast.
Fortunately the first dart hit its target and within minutes it was sleeping. Upon close inspection we found that the lion was very fortunate indeed as it had been caught by the one front paw. Our concerns are for his teeth that was badly broken while trying to chew through the cable snare to free himself and arrangements will need to be made for orthodontic veterinary care before we can consider returning him to the wild.
For now the lion we named Aslan, will be held in captivity until we can arrange the necessary veterinary care. We will keep you posted.