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Collaring a Lioness in Gorongosa

There are sometimes when technology is of huge benefit to our wildlife, especially if it used to track their movements and allow us to be able to respond quickly if there is an emergency.

On Saturday 8 July Paola Bouley, head of the Lion Research Project contacted me and asked if I would be interested in accompanying them and the Media group when they went out a little later to fit a GPS collar on Tonguinha, one of the young lionesses, a little later. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, skipped lunch and clambered into the vehicle.

Tonguinha

When we arrived close to the area where we had seen Tonguinha and other members of the pride earlier that morning we pulled over and listened as Paola briefed us on what would happen. I was asked to drive her vehicle while she joined Tonecas, the veterinarian, with me was Tara Easter, a student working with Paola, and an armed escort in case things went a little haywire, which was not expected but had to be acknowledged. Brett and Augustino would be in the Media vehicle.

Paola and Tonecas went ahead as the rest of us hung back, they approached to within about 30 meters and after a short period of assessing that everything should work out Tonecas darted Tonghina, all of the lion jumped when she sprang up in surprise as the dart found its mark. They only moved about 20 meters or so and then settled down again, shortly after that Tonghina fell asleep.

Paola then asked me to use the vehicle to push 2 of the other lions away and when we had done so we joined the rest of the team as the set to work on Tonghina.

First they ensured she was lying on her side comfortably and then the covered her face with a cloth to keep the sun off her. Tonecas quickly set to work and sprayed all the minor cuts and wounds with an anti-septic and she was given a dose of anti-biotic intravenously.

Now it was time to fit the GPS, this was quickly done and as soon it had been fitted, tightened and trimmed the team started taking measurements for their data records.

Then an antidote for the “sleeping drug” was administered and all of us moved off to give her space when she awoke. Paola and Tonecas only moved off a short distance to monitor her movements once she was awake and when they were satisfied that everything was okay they joined us. We sat and watched as Tonguinha took a few drunken steps, lay down again and rested for a while as she recovered a bit more and then stood up again and headed off to where one of the pride males had been sleeping under a small bush 50 meters from us, he had not even lifted his head while all this was going on!

Being so close to one of these amazing animals was truly a privilege, being able to see up close each detail of her and touch her fur and feet, study her fangs and listen to her breathing as she slept is something I am sure will remain with all of for a long time.

 

Lee Bennett

Muzimu Tented Camp

Gorongosa National Park

Mozambique