3 08 2011

On Tuesday (2nd August) our research team were busy entering data between the mid morning and afternoon research sessions when a call came through on the radio to say a fire had broken out in the release site.  The team quickly grabbed all equipment and jumped in to the vehicle to head over to the site along with practically every member of staff and volunteer at Antelope Park.


The sight that greeted them was nothing short of terrifying; 10 foot flames quickly sweeping through the southern part of the site.


Of course the first priority was the lions; they had been feeding on a zebra earlier in the day and having full tummies it was unlikely that they had moved too far. The team quickly located everybody except Milo and Kenge, all resting about 40m from where the fire was currently burning.


Most animals have a natural fear of fire and the team were relying for this to kick in as they started to search for Milo. The thick smoke seemed to be stopping the telemetry kit from picking up any signal from the lion’s collars, but after a while the team located him towards water hole three, quite a distance from where the fire was but in the direction it was heading. He seemed relaxed though and even had time for a short nap whilst the fire was still raging towards him.


The main concern was for AT1, in the chaos she had managed to get split up from Athena, but luckily she had one of her favourite playmates Narnia to stay close to. The two of them headed towards the northern fenceline, whilst Phyre and Kwali bravely moved passed the fire to safely rest in the area that had already been burnt.


After several hours the team fighting the fire managed to get it under control and stopped it spreading to the whole of the release site. Some small, manageable fires remained but the bulk had been put out.


By this time darkness was falling but the team once again started to try and locate all the lions just to double check that they were all ok and were relieved to find Athena, AT1, Narnia and Kenge all resting together. Soon after they find Ashanti and Nala resting in the newly burnt Serengeti East, looking slightly perplexed but perfectly healthy. A few minutes later the team were amused when they found Milo happily munching away on the zebra kill from earlier in the day, apparently not at all bothered by what had been going on. And finally Kwali and Phyre were found resting together in between water hole one and two.


Although the fire has affected 50 per cent of the site, it seems that all the game managed to avoid the flames and escape unharmed. As awful and stressful as the situation was for both the lions and the team putting out the fire, there are positives to come from it. The burnt land will soon have new shoots poking through which will provide some very tasty food for the plains game. It also means that the lions will have to start hunting in the burnt area, a much more challenging prospect and something that will test them and help to develop their hunting abilities even further.






3 responses

3 08 2011
Joyce Kinton

It must have been terrifying to those looking on but the pride dont seem to have cared less !
Out of all nasty things, good things come….the Phoenix raises up from the ashes and those lovely lions will win this next step to get nearer to becoming a pride able to live in any conditions..xx

3 08 2011

I wonder if the cause of the fire has been determined – probably not that unusual in the dry season – but still…. Thank you to all the hardworking team putting out the fire and tracking the lions – thankfully no one was harmed, human or animal. Thanks also for the detailed report –

8 08 2011

That must have been scary for two reasons! What steps are taken to protect the vols from a lion attack?

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