To follow the movements of lions in and outside Nairobi National Park we have fitted some animals with satellite collars. In July 2016 a new successful collaring took place. Quite special as our partner Kenya Wildlife Service requested the collaring of one specific lioness. A real challenge to locate, sedate and collar her. Luckily we had her full cooperation.
Since 2014 Francis Lesilau, employee of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and PhD candidate at Leiden University the Netherlands, does research on conflicts between lions and cattle herders around the park that borders Nairobi. The park is only 117 square kilometres large, with about 30-40 lions living in the park. These lions regularly leave the park and move into human populated areas; the suburbs of Nairobi and the surrounding agricultural and grazing areas. Here they cause unrest and problems; killing cows, sheep and goats and even attack people. To gain insight in these human-lion conflicts, we aim to fit lions that cause conflicts (so-called “problem lions”) with collars that have a satellite connection. Real-time data on the movement of these lions is used as an early-warning-system. KWS sends its rangers to prevent attacks of lions or handle the consequences of an attack.
A generous offer from Chasin’ Group made it possible to collar one new lion in Nairobi National Park in the second week of July 2016. KWS requested the collaring of one specific individual as she was identified as a problem animal. Her sister was already fitted with a collar for this same reason. As the lioness has four ‘teenagers’ (cubs of about two years old) which might copy their mothers behaviour she seemed a good candidate indeed. Quite a challenge as not earlier the options were limited to one specific individual with no back-up plan.
Beforehand, it took a lot of time to locate the lioness. She was observed in one area of the park since a few days. The question remains if she would cooperate. To lure her to us we played the distress call of a buffalo calf. To our surprise and relieve she showed up at our car within 15 minutes! She proved also relatively easy to dart. The job was thus done on the first day. The sponsor named her Nina, after his daughter.
The next day we returned to the capture site. Again we played the distress call of a buffalo calf. And again she almost immediately showed up at the car. The sedative makes her forget the whole capturing experience as her response suggests. Her four teenagers also showed up. Nina is very healthy and it seems she has already adjusted to a life with collar.
In the past few weeks she behaved very well. She stayed –besides one minor trip- within the parks boundaries. This fits with our expectations. Right now there is a sufficient food supply in the park. Only when prey becomes scarce(r) they venture outside the park in search for food. Where cows, goats and sheep are much more common and easier to prey on than antilopes.