In his thought-provoking blog (which can be found here) ecologist Seamus Maclellan, who works in Kenya as part of the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project team has raised the issue of dealing with individual animals, as opposed to being concerned about entire systems. Sometimes the answers are easy, sometimes very complicated. Here is an example of the former.
In 2003 veterinary students traveling with me in Uganda had the opportunity to treat an injured lion in Queen Elizabeth National Park. She had been badly beaten up in some sort of fight, and Dr. Ludwig Siefert took the students out late in the afternoon to see if they could find her. As the evening closed in the found her pride only a couple of kilometers from the village of Kasenyi, on the shores or Lake George. After some deliberation Ludwig decided to dart her, as there might not be a chance of finding her quickly the next day. There were some risks involved as she might not go down in an accessible spot before the rapid onset of dark that is typical of the tropics, especially so near the equator. The calculated risk paid off, she went down in the open, and examination revealed that she had deep puncture wounds and extensive skin tears on the insides of both hind legs. These photos of the incident appear on pages 277 & 278 of The Trouble With Lions.
With the moon not scheduled to rise for three hours dark soon overtook the crew, so they worked by the lights of the 4-WD while the game ranger kept a look-out for the rest of the pride, which never moved more than about 200 metres away. A ‘t’ shirt with a Canada flag logo was used to cover the patient’s eyes. Extensive debridement of the wounds and both short and long-acting antibiotics were administered and as the lion woke up the crew were finally able to leave her and get back to Mweya for a very late supper.
In this case the intervention by a veterinary team on an individual animal had positive results, and no negative impact upon the pride or the wider community (unless you argue that the now healthy lion would join in the pride’s hunting and eat her share of kob or buffalo). The ripple effect of the intervention had even wider results when the lioness, nick-named Canada because of the team, and for her temporary eye covering, delivered a litter of healthy cubs not long afterwards.