For over three months now, our lion monitoring programme which has been running in collaboration with the Research department at Meru National Park has been going on well. In addition, many tourists visiting the park, driver guides from Elsa’s Kopje, Rhino River Camp, Ikweta Camp and other partners have faithfully helped in the collection of much needed data on the distribution of lions in the 870sqKM Park. This is in an effort to have a solid understanding of the lion conservation status in the Park.
Early 17th June, a phone call came through to the Meru Park Resident KWS Vet about a snared lion! The caller, Mr. Ndungu, a senior tour guide/driver at Elsa’s Kopje spotted the fairly young lion and checked to confirm that indeed it had a snare on it. The guests he had taken for a game drive at the time were more than happy to wait, however long it took, for help to arrive.
I joined Dr. Rono, the Vet and his team seconded to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for the exercise. I have never spotted a snared lion but most of my colleagues at KWS narrated their encounters with such.
Less than half an hour later, at about 08:30 am, we arrived on site. Naturally, thoughts of the operation going wrong kept crossing my mind. I wondered what I would do if the lion suddenly woke up despite the vet having darted it. Minutes later, the he started wobbling and sure enough he was out in no time. A KWS ranger was the first to get out of the vehicle to blindfold him before the rest of the team joined in. To our relief, the snare had not eaten into the flesh and it was carefully removed by the doctor who also examined if the lion had any other problems, which luckily it didn’t.
After about forty five minutes, Dr.Rono revived the lion and boy, wasn’t it amazing to see him walk towards his friend. We had just rescued a lion! As we took off for our other duties, I couldn’t stop thinking about the truth of the statement ‘Snares are so indiscriminate, they indeed can kill anything’. It is worrying that even with the about 2,000 lions left in Kenya, we could be losing some of them in this manner.
It is not all gloom; our de-snaring efforts which are aimed at saving wildlife are bearing fruit. In areas previously ridden by snares, we are now seeing signs of stability and rise in numbers of various species. For the Born Free team, the life of a bush back and that of an elephant are equally important! We remain committed to having a healthy wildlife population.
After five months of constant field work filled with incredible results, we can report that we are on course! Settling down to our task was not particularly easy but as we have said in our previous updates that Captain Ochieng, the Meru National Park Senior Warden and his team have remained our true partners and friends.
Until the end of May, we had collected a total of 448 active/live snares and 29 inactive/dead snares. Our team is out for patrol for at least three weeks each month. Though seemingly un-harmful, the wire snares have consistently proven to be lethal tools for poachers.