On the morning of Friday January 24th 2014, a call came in to the Mara mobile vet unit from governors camp in the Masai Mara about a young lion cub separated from its mother for over five days. We immediately set out to go and check how the situation was and devise a plan to help the young cub in any way that we could, if we could. It happened that its mother who had three cubs and a sister who had one cub were feeding on a hippo when suddenly another pride whose territories overlap appeared and a fight broke out over the meal. The invaders were more powerful and determined and managed to push the two females and their cubs away. In the ensuing stampede and escape to safety, the young cub got separated from its mother. We were therefore all aware that the cub had no chance of survival on its own in the bush without its mother who at that age is the source of food and protection from potential threats such as Hyenas, Buffaloes’ and even other Lions. We had an option of capturing the cub and transporting it to the Nairobi animal orphanage at the KWS headquarters where she would have been faced with an unfortunate lifetime in captivity. The second option was to capture the cub and take it to its mother whom we had earlier located about Four Kilometres away, but there was the potential risk of it being killed by the mother due to the human scent and the long absence during the separation. After careful deliberations we agreed to take the risky second option!
Late in the afternoon, we scoured the bushes and the long elephant grass for our lost cub and luckily found it hidden on the plains in the long grass. Armed with only a blanket, we covered it but it slithered out and off it went! We all sprang out determined to catch up with the young sprinter and after a two hundred metre chase we managed to capture it using only the blanket.
Since we had no animal transport crate, we just put the cub at the back of our Vet Car and set out to where the mother had hidden the other two cubs. The mum was out on a hunt.
The other two little cubs were tucked in a forested area and were both playing on top of dead logs decaying on the ground. On release, the lost cub sprinted away on seeing the other two. She hid on a nearby bush and since they had seen each other we left it at that.
Early the following morning, we set out again looking for our family. Another Three kilometres away on the banks of the Mara River, we found the mother with all the three cubs lying side by side! That was our greatest moment of joy. All the four looked very comfortable with each other. On seeing the vet car, the little cub would leave the rest and retreat into a nearby bush for a minute and come back again. She kept on doing that until we left the scene. She did not wish to be covered with a blanket a second time!
Report by: Felix Micheni-Mara vet Unit