Lioness captured in a Village, outside of Hwange National Park
Monday 26th June 2017
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Currently this lioness is being held in a temporary holding facility in Hwange National Park while preparations are made for her relocation and release in a distant part of a National Park.
It is well known that previous attempts by researchers using “hard release” methods to relocate lions have failed due to a strong homing instinct that causes carnivores to quickly return to their place of capture. In this case the lioness is a healthy animal in peak physical condition and can easily catch and kill her own prey. She will be fitted with a satellite tracking collar and a prolonged and progressive release program known as “soft release” will be tested. There the lioness will be held in a temporary enclosure at the release site for several weeks before final release and Park ecologists will closely monitor her movements.
On the night of Monday 26th June 2017 an un-collared lioness was darted and captured in the Mabale Communal Land near Hwange National Park.
After many head of livestock had been killed in this area a team comprising National Park Rangers and members of the Dete Animal Rescue Trust (D.A.R.T.) was assigned to investigate these reports and confirm the number of livestock killed.
Starting 28th May 2017 the team responded day and night to every report received from the Mabale area and arrived as soon as possible after each incident to collect evidence while the tracks and footprints were still fresh.
Photos, video & GPS data of livestock killed, lion footprints found & drag marks followed were taken at the scene.
Since then mounting evidence began to show that one particular lioness, acting entirely on her own had embarked on a livestock-killing spree that few people could imagine and even less would believe. In less than a month she killed a total of 36x goats and 4x calves. Despite the carnage only 6x goats were dragged away and eaten.
The livestock killed at night were secured inside sturdy homestead “kraals” (goat pens) situated very close to the owner’s house. Because livestock is the primary source of wealth in a rural area, a single lion can wipe out the entire life savings of a rural family in one night. This is comparable to how a city resident might feel to wake up one morning and discover an Internet hacker had cleaned out your bank account and wiped out your life savings? So it is for many communal people living along the borders of a National Park or protected wildlife area.
And the actions of this lioness had become bolder: stalking prey between homesteads and starting to kill livestock during daylight hours greatly increased the risk she posed to human life, particularly young children walking to and from school or out playing in the fields. Even when she was seen and chased during the day by a number of people who thought they had succeeded, 10mins later she circled back around them to grab and gallop off with a dead goat in full sight of the startled villagers. She ignored people’s attempts to chase her.
Moreover on the night she was captured, a breeding herd of elephants entered the capture area situated amongst the homesteads and a cacophony of “vuvuzela” trumpets were blown to try and chase them away. The lioness was undeterred. Ignoring all the elephants and the loud vuvuzelas she walked through them all on her way to where she was darted and captured.
Congratulations and grateful thanks for the collaborative involvement, assistance and a job well done are extended to Chief Nelakoba, the Mabale Community, Rangers from National Parks, Forestry and CAMPFIRE and the Dete Animal Rescue Trust (D.A.R.T.).