One of the types of collars that are put on lions in order to track them is a kind that is set to drop off the lion on a particular date. One of our male lions, Maringa, had one of these collars, and as the date of ‘drop off’ became closer, it was critical to monitor him closely so as to be able to retrieve the precious collar, which contained all GPS data from his various travels. We put everything in motion to ensure a successful retrieve. All the Lion Guardians around his territory were on full alert and were given the necessary telemetry equipment they would need to track him. In a nutshell, everything was going as planned. Here is the wonderful male lion Maringa.
However, two weeks before the deadline, Maringa just disappeared into the thin air! There was no signal from his collar, and no tracks reported. The search team looked for him day and night to no avail. We were staring failure in the face, and were desperate to find him so we could retrieve his all important collar when it dropped off. The day before the deadline, we put in motion a search team that focused on one particular area called Osewan, where Maringa had been found numerous times, and where he was last seen. The search team was divided into three. One to track by car, one on motorbike and one to track on foot using their traditional skills and knowledge of the area.
On the day that the collar was to come off, all teams were out very early in the morning, in a desperate attempt to find the lion. And our hard work was finally rewarded! Before long, Maringa’s signal was picked up by the motorbike team, from a distance. Co-ordination took centre stage and within no time all team members were notified. The three teams met and laid down a final strategy, excited that there was now hope in sight. We narrowed the signal down to a very thick area of bush that was almost impassable. As we closed in on the collar and the signal became louder, we all became concerned with our safety. We didn’t know the exact time the collar would drop off – so we didn’t know whether we were approaching a lion, or just a collar!
Within a few minutes of a precautionary approach, we came out in an open area of ground and suddenly we saw it! The collar was lying on the ground all by itself. The only thing that attested to Maringa’s presence before we arrived was his unmistakable tracks on the ground. Filled with joy, excitement and a sense of satisfaction, our team picked up Maringa’s collar, happy that the information it carried had not gone to waste as we had earlier feared. This is a very important lion that forms part of a small population of lions living on communal land. He is definitely worth close monitoring and our Guardians have been doing exactly that!
Here is the successful team: From left: Philip Briggs, who is monitoring the lions on Eselenkei and Olgulului for Living with Lions, Lion Guardians Coordinator Luke, Lion Guardian Sitonik, myself (Lion Guardians Coordinator Eric), Lion Guardian Gisa and LWL research assistant Lenkai.