Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 4 Scene 2 – Lion territory

In this week’s Shamwari seriesI have the incredible opportunity to stay in one of Amakhala’s guest lodges, we discover young lions playing with a discarded glass bottle, and have the exciting task of assisting the vet with darting a lioness. This comes after moving from  Shamwari student lodge to neighbouring Amakhala Game Reserve. You can read all about that in the previous Shamwari Diaries post: Act 4, Scene 1 – In with the new. Or, you can read the series from the very beginning here.

Littering in lion territory

Thursday 18th September 2008

Began the day in search of the lions in their separate part of the reserve; where they are being kept temporarily.

When we found them, two of the sub adults were playing with a glass bottle that one of the guests must have thrown out onto the reserve! 

Although we waited for a while, they wouldn’t move on and leave the bottle behind for us to collect, so eventually we had to give up and leave them with it. Not an easy thing to do.

A game count on foot followed, which involved hiking up and down hills and checking the grass to see whether the zebra’s diet would need to be supplemented (which it will, because the dry ground won’t allow much grass to grow).

In total we found 6 zebras, 7 blesbok and 3 giraffes, couldn’t get very near to any of them. 

We were then taken to one of the guest lodges and given the amazing opportunity to spend the night there!

It was so luxurious; the rooms were secluded thatched buildings with tent-like walls that could be rolled up out the way, and each with their own plunge pool! 

Bath and plunge pool look out onto the reserve

I also had the luxury of my first bath in nine weeks! Over-looking the reserve and some of it’s herbivores as I stretched out and relaxed. The food was amazing too!

Comforts, counting and community

Friday 19th September 2008

This morning we got to enjoy breakfast at the lodge, which was great! A huge selection of cereal, fruit, yoghurt, croissants, etc.! It was luxury! 

We travelled out to the lion section of the reserve to whether they had hunted, but couldn’t get a good enough view of them to tell.

When we counted the rest of the game in that managed area, however, there was a wildebeest missing — so it’s likely they had caught that overnight.

They had also moved on far enough for us to collect the bottle that they had been playing with. 

We spent four hours at the Paterson children’s centre, digging out the old sandpit that they have there (which is complete with bricks and rubbish) and flattening it, and rebuilding it and getting new sand to fill it with. 

The children at the Paterson children’s centre sit in our vehicle

Once we had finished it, the older boys there (12-14 years old) treated us to a performance of singing and gum boot dancing to thank us for our efforts —they were so good, and their singing and choreography was fantastic!

Gum boot dancing is a South African dance performed when wearing and incorporating Welly boots; more commonly known as gum boots in South Africa.

Some of the girls then sang and danced; and for their age their voice were fantastic and they could harmonise so well!

Darting the lioness

Saturday 20th September 2008

Started today with a phone call from the vet to say that the lioness was going to be darted and given contraceptive implant so that she won’t fall pregnant again until the sub-adults in the pride are moved from their temporary enclosure (where the Amakhala pride is currently kept) to another reserve, and until herself and the male pride leader are moved onto the main reserve.

Interestingly, for this task we had to use the Land Rover with a full roof and windows; (as opposed to the usual open vehicle with a roll cage), so that lions don’t associate the roll-cage style Land Rovers (which are also used to take guests on safari) with fear and danger, and end up hiding from them.

Our more commonly used Land Rover, with roll cage

Unfortunately for us, however, the vehicle wouldn’t start! So after getting out and pushing for a while it was finally on its way —but broke down again on the way into the actual reserve perimeter, meaning more pushing!

When we got there the Amakhala team had a red hartebeest carcass to use as bait to allow them to dart the lioness and lure the rest of the pride away from her once she’s knocked out.

Veterinary student inserts the contraceptive implant near to the lionesses shoulder

It all went very smoothly and, once she was darted, the lioness was moved to a boma where we got to watch a group of vet students give her injections and a contraceptive implant — we also got to check her over ourselves to look for any ticks or signs of injury.

Unfortunately, as the anaesthetic wore off and we went to leave, the Land Rover wouldn’t start again! We had to get out and push once more; this time in the middle of lion territory!

Next time: We release Lightfoot the male cheetah onto the reserve and launch a new initiative to help the local community manage an HIV and AIDS epidemic. You can read the series from the very beginning here.

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CHECK IT OUT! The first post of my Shamwari Series features in a new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

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