Mabula Game Reserve Carries Out Successful Veterinary Intervention on a Madjuma Lioness

The management of Mabula Game Reserve is pleased to announce the successful conclusion of a recent operation to administer a contraceptive injection to a young Madjuma lioness. Mabula management, with the assistance of wildlife veterinarian Dr. Andy Fraser, carried out this carefully planned operation during June 2019.

The aim was to maintain control of the Reserve’s lion population and to protect its genetic integrity. The lioness in question was born on the Reserve in 2014 and both her mother and father are still present on the Reserve. To avoid any risk of inbreeding, and in keeping with Mabula’s longstanding apex predator management programme, the decision was taken to give this lioness a contraceptive injection.

“This operation will help ensure enjoyable game viewing for Mabula guests while controlling the growth rate of the lion population and keeping existing pride structures intact,” commented Isaiah Banda, Madjuma Reserve Manager. “Stabilising the lion population will allow other species to flourish, ultimately maximising the overall biodiversity of the Reserve and promoting a healthy, balanced ecosystem,” he added.

As an apex predator, lions can have a controlling effect on the populations of their main prey species. Where there are too many lions for the available food resources, the competition will force some lions to move away and seek territories elsewhere. This also promotes genetic diversity among lion populations.

If, on the other hand, there are too few lions, populations of prey species can increase to the point where their own food resources are insufficient.

In larger wilderness areas, natural processes keep predator to prey ratios in balance. However, land use pressure from humans means that across their former range, lions have faced long-term range contraction. Less space means less access to food, which means that fewer lions can be supported.

In enclosed game reserves, this phenomenon can be particularly pronounced. As lions cannot leave the area, an increase in lion populations over time can have a very significant impact on prey species and soon result in ecosystem and biomass imbalance.

Controlling wildlife populations within a game reserve can be a challenging task.  Lions are able to increase their numbers rapidly (thanks to a short gestation period, multiple breeding females within a pride, and the security afforded to young cubs by the social structure of the pride).

In the context of the Mabula Private Game Reserve, the Madjuma lions are extremely effective hunters. An unchecked increase in their population, combined with this hunting prowess, would likely result in a serious decline in the Reserve’s ungulate population in the near future.

The operation was a relatively simple one. The pride was located on Bottom Whole Owners’ Plain. Dr. Fraser immobilised the lioness and then administered an injection of Suprelorin. This contraceptive drug is commonly used on lions and has an effective lifespan of between 18 and 30 months.

While the lioness was immobilised, Dr. Fraser took the opportunity to also administer a rabies vaccination, antibiotics, and vitamins.  Dr. Fraser pronounced himself very satisfied with the outcome, as well as with the lioness’ dental health and overall body condition.

Once all checks and treatments had been carried out, the lioness received a reversal drug and was fully awake and alert within five minutes.  The operation was judged to be a complete success.

For more information, contact Mrs. Cindy Sheedy Walker of Extraordinary on Tel: +27 011 516 4367, Email cindy@extraordinary.co.za