In a world of wildlife that is usually dominated by negative news stories, we are always thrilled to hear positive ones – especially when it happens so close to us in KwaZulu Natal. Earlier this month, two lionesses were successfully relocated from Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo to the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, just over an hour’s drive from Nibela Lake Lodge.
This relocation is part of a plan to bring back lions to iSimangaliso after 40-odd years of absence, with the last lion shot in the 1960s. The first introductions took place in 2013 and 2014. This latest successful relocation will only add a new blood line to the growing lion population in uMkhuze. Here’s what we know.
Why is relocation for lions necessary?
In small reserves like this one, genetic diversity is an important factor in ensuring the health of the population where natural migration and emigration are not possible due to fences. The purpose of this specific relocation to iSimangaliso was to add genetic diversity to the existing lion population in the uMkhuze section of the park.
How did the relocation happen?
Veterinarians Dr. Ben Muller and Dr. Joel Alves darted the lions near their territory in Makalali Private Game Reserve. Once safely sedated, the vets tested for tuberculosis and other diseases, to make sure they would not be transferring diseases to species in another area. After the 72 hours waiting period it takes for the results to present, the lions were then loaded into their crates to be relocated to iSimangaliso.
After the long drive from Makalali, the lionesses made it safely to the boma at uMkhuze, where they remained for approximately four weeks to get used to their new environment.
What happens next?
On Friday, 24 November the two lionesses in the boma were marked and collared –practices widely used to facilitate research and monitoring of threatened wildlife. Dr Jacques Flamand successfully darted the lions and the management team from Ezemvelo Kwa-Zulu Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) swiftly fitted the collars. After blood samples were taken for genetic records, the anti-dote was administered and the lionesses woke up shortly after.
The lionesses will remain in the boma for another week or so and will be monitored after their release using the new tracking collars. Full details of the story can be seen here.
If there was ever time to visit iSimangaliso, it is now. Today, the park boasts all of the Big 5 and is a bastion for the remaining black rhino in Natal. The uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park is just over an hour’s drive from Nibela Lake Lodge.