Incredible story of how the lion condemned to death when his neck was caught in a poacher's snare survived for THREE YEARS after he was fed by his brothers and sisters
Lion first spotted with the snare caught around its neck in Mikumi National park in Tanzania in 2009The snare was slowly garroting him to death as he grew in size Varying
terrain meant that several attempts to tranquilise the male lion failed
But he was kept alive by his pride of lions who brought him food
Rangers at Mikumi National Park finally managed to free the lion in August
The lion was recently snapped in the wild on the road to recovery
22:46 GMT, 23 December 2012
A young male lion caught in a snare which slowly tightened around his neck as he grew older has been saved after a rescue operation was launched.
The lion was first spotted trapped in the snare in Mikumi National park in Tanzania back in 2009 but several attempts to rescue him failed.
After three years, the cord had become so tightly wrapped around the lion's neck that he was left unable to hunt and his gaping wound attracted flies and infection.
The young animal would soon have been lying in agony in the African bush facing a certain death.
But thanks to coverage in the Daily Mail earlier this year, an operation to sedate the lion and remove the snare was launched this summer.
Rescued: The lion, which was first spotted trapped in the snare in 2009, was finally free by rangers in the Mikumi National Park in Tanzania earlier this year. He has now been pictured in the wild for the first time since being freed (shown above) and appears to be on the road to recovery
Trap: William Mwakilema, chief park warden in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania, pictured holding the snare which was slowly garroting a young lion
The lion was found by park rangers in August and vets managed to sedate him and cut away the electrical wire snare. The lion has now been photographed in the wild for the first time since his ordeal and appears to be recovering with his mane growing back over his neck and shoulders.
The rescue ended a three year hell for the lion. As he has grown over the last three years, the wire snare got tighter and tighter around his neck, and began causing a slow agonising death.
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Facing death: The young lion was left trapped in the snare, which got tighter and tighter as he grew, for a total of three years after numerous attempts to rescue him failed
There is now a growing demand for lions claws and bones in parts of the far east for use in traditional medicines.
Lions are being hunted more and more as a substitute for tigers – whose body parts have traditionally been used for the Chinese medicine market – as tigers are now so scarce in the wild.
A sharp increase in the lion bone trade suggests that lion bones are being swapped for tiger bones used in far eastern medicine. Also the pelts and claws are being used too.
Dr Pieter Kat, from LionAid, said: ‘There has been a huge jump recently in the value of lion bones driven by the traditional medicine market, seeing as we have so few tigers.’
Shocking: William Mwakilema, chief park warden at the Mikumi National Park, said that the snare would have caused the lion a 'slow agonising death' if he hadn't been freed
In the 1990’s, 1kg of lion bones were worth just $10, but now that has massively increased to $300 in 2010.
The increase in value is reflected in the figures that show the number of lions left in the wild is on a serious decline.
There was an estimated 200,000 lions in Africa in the 1960’s. This has dropped to just 23,000- 25,000.
Earlier this year, two lions were found dead in Northern Tanzania, with just their claws removed.
After the snared lion was spotted and photographed in May, the Daily Mail highlighted his plight.
It sparked worldwide concern via the internet, social networking sites and international press.
Mr Mwakilema, who has been the Chief Warden since January this year, decided to launch the biggest rescue mission for the lion so far.
He mobilised the majority of the 77 park rangers, who carried out an extensive search of the vast area, stretching over 3,200 square kilometres.
Mikumi national park is adjoined to the biggest reserve in Africa, Selous Game Reserve, which is a further 50,000 square kilometres – bigger than the entire land area of Denmark. The lions can move freely between the two areas.
Safari tourists were also asked to report any sighting of lion and look out for the signs of any neck injuries and to report it straight back to the park authorities.
The lion was finally found at the end of August when rangers spotted it among its pride. A vet with a tranquilising rifle was called to the scene.
Mr Mwakilema added: ‘This was an extremely dangerous procedure as the other five members of the pride attempted to protect the tranquilised lion.
‘The amount of tranquiliser used was crucial as too little and the lion wouldn’t be subdued – with the ability to kill a man with one swipe of his paw. Too much could prove fatal.
‘The vet eventually managed to tranquilise him and the rangers drove off the remainder of the pride using their patrol land cruisers.
‘The skin had healed over the snare leaving only some of the wire visible and it required a skilled use of bolt cutters to sever the thick electrical wire cable which was embedded into the flesh.’
Success: After seven failed attempts, rangers managed to sedate the lion and remove the snare from around its neck in August this year. They put a purple antiseptic on the lion's shocking wounds
Delicate operation: The rangers had to be sure to get the amount of sedative given to the lion right as too little and it could have killed one of them with a swipe of its paw, whereas too much would have killed the lion
After releasing the snare a purple antiseptic was applied to the remaining wound and a drug to reverse the transquiliser was given to the lion.
Mr Mwakilema, who studied an MSC in Tourism Development at Surrey University, added: ‘This was a massive rescue attempt – bigger than anything ever attempted before.
‘The terrain varies from open plains to dense forests and mountain areas, so it was a difficult area to search.
‘During certain times of years, the grass can be taller than a man, and this was the circumstances when the photographer first took the picture in May. A lion can disappear in this grass, be sitting five feet away from you and can’t be spotted, due to their excellent camouflage.’
‘Despite all these difficulties we persevered and thankfully managed to free it.’
This November, photographer Gary Roberts who took the original photograph, returned to Mikumi National Park and spent six days photographing lions within the area. On the last night after following a pride he was astonished to see the rescued lion coming out of the darkness.
Wounds: Rangers put a purple antiseptic on the lion's wounds in a bid to prevent infection and to help the animal to heal. The lion's skin had grown around the snare
Asleep: The animal pictured lying sedated in the Tanzanian bush. He was eventually revived by rangers who gave him an antidote to reverse the effects of the sedative drug
He was positively identified by park authorities later by matching scar patterns on his face and shoulders. Already the lion had put on weight and was starting finally to grow the mane around his neck and shoulders.
Gary Roberts said: ‘He did not emerge to join the pride until well after dark and we were packing up ready to leave for the day.
‘He approached his brothers within the pride and settled down to rest with them. It was a great sight – an end to a harrowing story – and shows that with the cooperation of authorities and the help from the public something can be done to stem the relentless threat of poaching to wildlife worldwide.’
Tanzanian National Park Authorities have anti poaching patrols, but with over 30 per cent of Tanzania’s land set aside for conservation purposes, the area is a large area to police.
There are projects such as the SANA Project in Tanzania, set up by the Saadani Safari Lodge, to allow poorer communities to develop whilst protecting the national park areas.
It is hoped that projects such as these will help protect and preserve the wildlife for the future.
Now: The rescued lion has recently been spotted in the park at night after six days of searching. The wound has started to heal and a mane was growing over his back and shoulders