In late November a distress call from Olare Orok Conservancy manager reached the Mara vet unit on a Sunday morning about a lioness spotted by a patrol unit with a arrow head lodged on its front left leg. The team members had all planned to travel back to Nairobi and take a four day break as the unit vehicle is serviced in readiness for the December operations but that journey was cut short. The travel plans quickly changed we headed off to save the lioness from. We hurriedly unpacked our bags from the car and replaced them instead with drug boxes, ropes, water cans and the dart gun.
We drove to the conservancy where the Lioness was and found her in the company of another lioness most probably a sister or a close relative. This is because Lion cubs born at the same time in the same pride bond and live together for the rest of their lifetime. We were informed that both females had lost two cubs each to another pride whose territory overlaps with theirs. This must have therefore caused them a lot of grief but we could not understand why someone had to attack them with arrows considering that the area has plenty of game for prey and is away from settlements.
She was calm even in our presence and was tucked under some croton bushes to shelter from the sun. Even with our naked eyes we could see the arrow head lodged in the upper part of the front left leg.
The dart gun was assembled as the vet prepared the drug cocktail that is used for anaesthetizing lions. When all was ready the Lioness was darted but after twenty minutes she was only dazed and its only after the second dart that she was fully narcotized. When this happened the partner jumped across the small stream and disappeared. A quick search nearby indicated that she was nowhere around and the team could carry on treating the injured friend without worrying about our backs.
When she went down we carried her to a shade where the metallic arrow head was removed and the wound thoroughly cleaned with Hydrogen peroxide, clean water and a Tincture of Iodine applied. Later a antibiotic spray was used to keep flies away and intramuscular long acting antibiotics injected together with anti inflammatory. It was good to note that the arrow was not poisoned and the injury was on the muscles which means healing would be fast due to the good blood supply to muscles.
When all was done the animal was allowed to sleep a little more to allow the body to metabolize one drug before the second is reversed using an antidote. So after the injection of the antidote, the lioness smoothly woke up and sat down to stare at us. Moments later the other lioness emerged from the croton bushes right where we were all standing. She had gone round in a circle and come back right behind us to ascertain that we were helping the sister and not harming her in any way, otherwise she would have launched a surprise attack in defense of her and that would have been probably fatal!
Animals have their unique sense of detecting our intentions on them and thats why we treat each individual animal with utmost respect and care at the David Sheldrick because definitely they will remember that and reciprocates in kind.
Micheni Felix- Mara vet Unit.