My name is Mat Beckwith; I am finishing my studies at high school in England, and will have the privilege to be attached to Save The Elephants as an intern for the entire month of July. I have had so many experiences in the past few days that each merit their own blog entry, but for the moment I wanted to share the details of our latest undertaking: How to de-collar a lion (hint: see title).
In recent days the camp has been bustling with visitors and guests, including Shivani Bhalla and her team of lion researchers who are based in the nearby conservancy of Westgate; this is because we are preparing to de-collar a resident lion whose GPS collar has stopped transmitting. The team began the search for the collared lion “Lguret” early this morning, and were able to locate him at around 6:30. I had the incredible opportunity to make up part of the team, serving as a group photographer. Lguret was found resting with his brother Loirish in the thick shrubs surrounding the nearby river, and was darted from one of the vehicles. Loirish fled into the undergrowth, and the rangers with us stayed vigilant in case he returned! Once Lguret was sedated, the researchers quickly set about removing his restrictive collar and checking to see if Lguret was otherwise healthy.
Lguret was found to be the picture of health, and still growing at around 4 years old, despite already weighing a hefty 150kg. Once the sedatives began to ware off, team members retreated to a “safe” distance and waited for Lguret to regain consciousness. However we still had the tricky task of protecting this vulnerable lion from a nearby family of elephants. Thanks to some “creative” driving by team members the elephants were chased off (for their own good as well as the lions’s), and Lguret made a full recovery.
A tremendous sense of relief was felt by all, since the whole operation had gone according to plan for Lguret, who can return to roaming Samburu without the extra weight of his collar. To be able to take part in the de-collaring was a once in a lifetime opportunity that the other team members and I won’t soon forget!