Collaring the Blondes
Return to Our Latest News
There are less than 2,000 lions left in Kenya from a population of 15,000 just 10 years ago. What is more worrisome is that the national population is being reduced by an average of 100 lions each year! Because of growing human settlements, lions and humans share shrinking habitats which often results in conflict – lions attack communities’ livestock, communities retaliate and kill lions, sometimes in huge numbers. To come up with solutions aimed at mitigating the human-lion conflict, conservationists monitor lion movements through collars.
Recently, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy undertook a lion collaring exercise, replacing worn out VHF collars with Vectronic GPS collars on some of the lions in the Conservancy. GPS collars allow for the studying of lion movements in greater detail, even into areas where it is usually impossible to follow them.
The collaring exercise started with tracking suitable candidates first. Suitable candidates are adult females in their prime. They are the most active therefore determining the prides’ movements. The call-back method, playing a variety of sounds such as a distressed buffalo, the sound of cheetah cubs and even the sound of hyenas on a carcass via loud speaker, was used to lure the lions out.
Once the ideal candidate was spotted, Kenya Wildlife Service vet Dr. Matthew Mutinda darted her with an anaesthetic, putting her to sleep. Immediately the lion went down, the whole team snapped into action and for the next 40 minutes, worked in unison. The GPS collar was fastened on the lioness’s neck making sure it wasn’t too tight or loose. Blood and tissue samples were taken to assess her health, as well as measurements of paws, body length and height. While all this was ongoing, there was an armed ranger close by on the look out to ensure the other lions didn’t come back.
After all the data was collected and the collar properly attached, an antidote was given waking up the lioness who walked off into the bush to find her pride mates. Collars have been widely studied for their influence on animals, and all evidence shows that hunting, socialising and all other behaviours are not affected in any way.
The lion collaring exercise is progressing with two lionesses fitted with GPS collars so far. We plan on collaring four more lionesses. The information collected from the collars is useful for the development of home range maps and a greater understanding of the habitat utilization of lions. The information also ensures the Conservancy’s management make informed decisions in regard to predator-prey relationships.
We would like to thank the University of Wyoming who donated six GPS collars through Dr. Jacob Goheen. We also would like to acknowledge Silver Bird Travel, Serena Hotels and Kenya Wildlife Service for all the support they provided.
Return to Our Latest News