This is an incredible story about an injured lion that killed a young cow and how we stopped a group of men from killing her in retaliation.
We received a report on January 24th that a lion was seen in Buffalo Springs National Reserve with severe injuries. We responded quickly by spending two days in the Reserve looking for the lion, which turned out to be Kofafeth, an 11 year-old female who is part of the Ngare Mara Pride. We notified both the Reserve management and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and coordinated with the KWS veterinarian, Dr. Mutinda, who recommended the lion be assessed and treated.
Then, on the afternoon of the 26th, we got a call that a lioness had killed a cow right outside Archer’s Post Gate. We raced over and picked up a Samburu National Reserve Ranger, then found Kofafeth near the cow carcass. She was clearly struggling to move through the saltbush plains. As we were watching her, she suddenly stood up, crouched low and started moving off nervously. We turned around to see what had made her react in this way and noticed a group of men holding knives and heading towards us and the lioness – clearly with the intent to kill her. We drove quickly between the lioness and the elders and spoke to them, urging them not to take action. They agreed to return to their village, where we spoke to them in depth about why the importance of lions in this area. Fortunately, they agreed to leave her alone.
The next morning, we had two vehicles out to locate the lioness. We found her resting in an open area – she had survived the night. As the KWS vet travelled up to Samburu, we carefully followed Kofafeth as she climbed a small hill, eventually finding some shade to rest in – a good spot for treating her.
Dr. Mutinda arrived and prepared a dart to anesthetize her. He made a great shot; Kofafeth stood up, looked behind as if something had snuck up and bit her, then settled back down in the shade. Once she was safely unconscious, the team approached and covered her head with a towel and kept her cool with water.
She was in very poor condition. From head to toe she was covered in old scars, recent scabs, and fresh wounds, including a few deep punctures which were septic. We are not certain what caused her wounds. We do not believe they were from gunshots; it is possible the wounds are from a fight with another lion or other predator such as hyena, or from an encounter with barbed-wire fence.
For the next hour we treated her wounds, took measurements, and collected blood and hair samples. The vet then administered the antidote and we left her to wake up and recover.
We believe that her wounds had seriously weakened her, and this is the most likely reason why she attacked livestock, which are generally easier to get than natural prey. Our hope is that the veterinary treatment will help Kofafeth recover and therefore go back to preying on antelope rather than livestock, and that she will live to produce another litter of cubs.