Endangered Lion Rescue Group Helps Lioness Remove Porcupine Quills: ‘He Probably Saved Her Life’

Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal. On the very last day of our expedition, we found a lonely skinny young lioness. She seemed to have separated from her pride and was unable to hunt on her own. Closer examination showed that she had a face full of porcupine quills that prevented her from eating. We thought his chances of survival were very low. We knew we had to do something because, even if it was natural, there was a young woman here who could, in her lifetime, make a significant contribution to the recovery of this critically endangered population. So we decided to throw darts at him and remove the quills from his mouth and face, disinfect his wounds and give him antibiotics. We then gave her a few days of meat to eat which will make her fat. We probably saved his life. She was too small to wear a GPS collar but we took genetic samples from her and hope that one day we will find her or even better her offspring! What an amazing way to end the collaring expedition! In the photo, Fall the park vet removes quills from his face.

Panther

World wild cat conservation organization Panthera and its partner, Senegal’s Department of National Parks, are making a difference one lion at a time.

According to a May statement from Panthera, the nonprofit and Senegal’s parks department are working to place GPS collars on critically endangered West African lions in the national park. du Niokolo Koba (PNNK), and have managed to stick six lions since 2021.

The data collected from the six collared animals will help “provide essential data for the protection of the species,” the statement said.

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While working on this project recently, conservationists found a skinny young lioness who had become separated from her pride and was unable to hunt on her own, the statement said.

During the days, the team tracked the collared lions using VHF to collect data on their pride structure and investigated GPS clusters to collect data on lions killed and their prey selection.  Pictured is lioness Flo with her sister in the background which we pasted last year and which now forms the park's biggest pride

During the days, the team tracked the collared lions using VHF to collect data on their pride structure and investigated GPS clusters to collect data on lions killed and their prey selection. Pictured is lioness Flo with her sister in the background which we pasted last year and which now forms the park’s biggest pride

Panther A lioness Flo pictured with her sister in the background which was pasted last year.

When the research team took a closer look, they found the animal had a “face full of porcupine quills” which they say had kept it from eating for “probably a month”.

The team decided to tranquilize the wild animal, remove the quills from its mouth and face, disinfect the wounds and administer antibiotics.

“We probably saved her life. She was too small to wear a GPS collar, but we took genetic samples from her and hopefully one day we will find her or, better yet, her offspring,” said Dr. Philipp Henschel, Panthera’s regional director for West and Central Africa, said in a statement.

Panthera scientists and members of Senegal's Department of National Parks with an anesthetized and collared lion.  Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal.  2021.

Panthera scientists and members of Senegal’s Department of National Parks with an anesthetized and collared lion. Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal. 2021.

Paul Funston/Panther Panthera scientists and members of Senegal’s Department of National Parks with an anesthetized and collared lion in Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal last year.

Along with news of the impromptu rescue, the release of Panthera also revealed that the West African lion population in the PNNK has more than doubled over the past decade.

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When the organization first visited the park in 2011 to assess the status of its West African lion population, the group found only 10 to 15 lions in the park, according to Henschel. Panthera estimates that around 40 lions currently live in the park, after a decade of conservation efforts in partnership with local park authorities.

Across West Africa, the organization estimates that the West African lion population has doubled from 125 to 250 in the past ten years.

Charles P. Patton