Behind the Scenes with Lion Conservation

A male lion.
Lion by Paul. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You might recall that last week, I reviewed a video by the brand-new media company PaintedDog TV. I gave that video, called “Safari with Brent: Cheetahs of Leadwood,” the highest rating I’d ever given a wildlife film.

Now, Brent Leo-Smith and Wium Dornbrack have just released their fourth “Safari with Brent” video, “Re-collaring a Male Lion,” and it’s incredible.

Re-collaring a Male Lion” is a behind-the-scenes look at conservation in Africa. It tells the story of a young, male lion who’d outgrown the tracking collar that was placed on him to help scientists and wildlife managers study his movements. Thus, the lion had to be tranquilized so that managers could give him a bigger collar.

PaintedDog TV were there for the whole ordeal, and it was intense. Be sure to watch the video below, and take a few minutes to learn about PaintedDog TV!

Media Mondays?

On another note, I’m thinking of creating a “Media Monday” feature on this blog, where I share wildlife-related media – mostly videos – on as many Mondays as I can manage. Thoughts?

29 Thoughts

  1. Wow! I can’t believe he runs around in flip flops. Did they eventually get the other males?
    What an opportunity, yet in some ways about what he says of the reasons and inconvenience, a little part of me can’t help but say, “leave those poor beasts alone!” That one straight up shot of his face was beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The flip-flops may look bizarre, but Brent grew up in the bush, so he knows what he’s doing! Those of us who are less experienced in the bush should definitely wear closed-toed shoes though.

      I’m not sure if the team wanted to collar all of the males. For animals that travel in groups, like lions, there’s generally no need to collar every individual.

      It’d be great if there were less invasive ways to monitor the movements of animals like lions, and one day there will be, but for now collars are the best way to study such creatures. It is inconvenient and stressful for the animals though, so someone needs to develop better technology! Eventually they will.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I have no idea if such technology exists or not. There are computer chips that can be inserted into pets to track them, but that’d be a very invasive procedure for a wild lion: you’d have to capture it, perform a hasty surgery, and sew the animal back up again. You might even need to re-capture the lion to remove the stitches later on, but I’m not sure about that.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I wouldn’t know either whether it would be a serious surgical procedure except that in the long run, the kitty wouldn’t have this thing around it’s neck. I have one cat that doesn’t mind a collar, one that wouldn’t stand for it no way, no how. The clincher for me, was the one that almost choked to death when her collar got hung up on something. I found her foaming at the mouth, eyes bulging and writhing to get it off, which made me reconsider collars. They can get caught in things, hence the question and well, wild animals are… wild and can get into things.
            However, I did look it up and it seems the type of tracking device is determined by the type of animal and the kind of data they are trying to collect. Apparently the device can also store information that can later be retrieved.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This was very interestinhg to watch, Josh! Thanks for sharing. I was also a bit surprised to see that he was not wearing proper footwear and generally the team was quite “easy-going” in their approach. I think game wardens who work in a formal capacity would probably have a slightly more formal approach and may approach and handle the lions in a less casual manner. I don’t know the background of this team or whether the reserve they are on is private or not. This is not a criticism, just an observation! I enjoyed watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a look at Brent’s Bio, which is here:
      He obviously knows what he’s doing and has all the experience having grown up in the safari and game reserve environment (sector) in South Africa, which is probaby the reason why he goes about it in such a “casual” way. I’m not an expert, so can’t judge, really. I think that wearing protective gear (proper shoes, gloves) and approaching the animal with more care (if it is only half-sedated), would be a more careful approach – from my layman’s point of view. On the other hand, they probably also need to move fast, because they are being ‘observed’ by the other lions and its not all that safe to ‘hang around’ and just take their time. I will watch more episodes of you put them up on your blog to get a better idea of their work. I really liked the previous one you posted.

      Thanks Josh!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Jacques, as you found out Brent’s spent most of his life in the bush, so he knows what he’s doing. Granted, if you or I were in that situation, we’d definitely need boots – our steps would likely be clumsier than Brent’s.

        In regard to why they approached the lion so soon, the reason is that the lion was almost falling off a cliff. Thus, they had to grab him when he was only half-sedated to pul him to a safer spot.

        I expect I’ll post more of PaintedDog TV’s videos! Stay tuned.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Jacques! I responded to your other comment, but I believe they were on a private game reserve – don’t quote me on that though.

      Brent seems easy-going in the bush; but, as you learned, that’s because he’s at home there. Also, as I said in the other comment, the team had to move quickly because the lion was threatening to pass out on the edge of a cliff.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Josh, I did a bit of research on animal handling protocol in game reserves in South Africa and came across an article that refers to the difference between public (state owned/managed) reserves and public ones – this paragraph seems relevant, although it refers to taking tourists on “Lion Walks” and game warden animal handling protocol.

    “But the rules are often much more blurred on private reserves, where governments often have less legal or practical oversight. On public lands, guides must often follow strict codes that require them to stay on paths, avoid baiting and disrupting wildlife’s natural activities, and keep at safe distances.”

    The safety aspect is a very important factor in animal handling, especially in the case of large carnivores like big cats (for the safety of the cats and the humans) and from an educational point of view it should probably always be highlighted (which is why I am making the effort to bring this up).

    I could not find specific information online about official protocol for state owned reserves, but it would be interesting to learn about that.

    Perhaps you could drop Brent and his team an e-mail and ask him if they could include some information in their videos about animal handling to assuage any possible concerns from their viewers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jacques, Brent did mention in the video that the lion was almost falling off a cliff, which is why he and the team were forced to handle the animal before it was fully sedated. Normally they would’ve waited until the lion was less of a threat to approach it.

      I should also clarify that this was a special operation: they had to dart the lion because it’d outgrown its collar. I highly doubt they bait lions under normal circumstances.

      Could you perhaps be more specific about which of the practices in the video you’re concerned about, or what sorts of information you’d like? I could send Brent an email, but my message would be more helpful if I knew what sorts of information you’re interested in regarding animal handling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Josh, I had a look at the video again. Just after they pulled the lion away from the cliff they could have waited some minutes for sedative to take full affect, so they actually caused it to move towards the cliff again. Then there were “a few more false starts and hair raising moments”. Given that the tranquillizer should be powerful enough to knock the lion out sufficiently, they could have just waited a few more moments. I noticed that they approached the lion at his head (mouth) as well more than once, not knowing yet whether he was fully under. So, it all seemed a bit hasty to me. He said: “we finally brought the lion under control”. If they waited a \few minutes it may not have been necessary to ‘bring it under control’ (?).

        It may sound like I’m nitpicking, but I’m just saying what I was wondering while watching. Of course it is possible that due to the lion’s size they underestimated the tranquillizer’s strength and though the lion was already under. Generally they should know how many minutes to wait (Brent didn’t mention anything about miscalculating so we don’t know).

        He also mentioned that the one lion actually stalked him while they were trying to follow them on foot, which to me also seemed like a risky procedure. We cannot see if there is a person behind the camera who could tranquillise the lion should he attack the rangers on foot (which should be protocol) for the rangers’ safety.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Awesome, thanks Jacques, this gives me much more to go off of. You’re not nit-picking, these are the sorts of questions viewers can be expected to have while watching films that, by necessity, have to cut out a lot of footage. I’m actually in occasional correspondence with Brent, so I’ll let him know that a viewer had concerns about safety. He does weekly Q&A videos as well, so perhaps he’ll address similar concerns in one of them? I doubt you’re the only viewer who has safety-related questions.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. PS: Just for interest sake, I came across this internship program while searching, which although a bit expensive looks like it could be really good (!)

    “Overview: Travel to the savannas of Southern Africa, to work for three months with our international research team in a private nature reserve, one hour from Kruger National Park, in partnership with highly reputable local and international conservation organisations, like the South African National Parks authorities, Panthera, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and Elephants Alive. Then put your training into practice completing a three month work placement an a South African conservation organisation or an ecotourism lodge. ”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacques! That looks like an amazing internship, but it costs more money than I currently have! That actually touches on an issue that’s been getting more attention in the past few years: wildlife conservation is quickly becoming even more of a rich man’s field than it was before; one essentially has to buy their way into the field.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I’ll make it to Africa some day; I just need the right opportunity.

          Yes, there need to be more ethical standards regarding the treatment/compensation of employees and interns in the conservation realm – not everyone can literally pay to work.

          Liked by 1 person

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