Today was a very exciting day at Love Lions Alive Sanctuary. A veterinarian Peter Caldwell from Old Chapel Vet Clinic in Pretoria South Africa came to the sanctuary to spayed two lions. He originally studied agriculture in university, but after doing extra work at a cheetah sanctuary he decided to study to become a veterinarian specializing in wild animals. He has been working for big reserves in South Africa for 20 years, such as Kruger Parks for wild dogs. He has been working with the big five game animals, which are lions, elephants, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo. He helps dehorn rhinoceroses so that they are not a target for being poached. He holds the same beliefs as Andi in that they do not help with breeding lions to be hunted. Peter expressed that he really appreciates Andi’s work in saving lions.
Since the veterinary was out in the field today, we made the best with what we had. They turned a dining table into an operating table. Everything was very carefully disinfected and sanitized. The veterinary scrubbed a lot, the same way as you see the doctors do it in the show Grey’s Anatomy, except this was the lion’s version of the show. The first lion to be spayed was Natacha. The vet darted her using a special sedative dart which makes a lion vomit after being hit, this way with having no food in the lion’s stomach creates less issues during surgery.
They carried her onto the back of a bakkie (truck) and drove her to the dining room. I was asked to carry her tail as we took her inside! They had a pad for the lion to lay on and feel comfortable. They tied her legs to the table using rope and had two drips going, one with fluid and the other was Propofol anesthetic. The veterinary told us that this anesthetic is the only kind that can be used when working in the field as it enters through the blood and is a good sleeping method for lions. Helping the veterinarian was a volunteer from Austria who is working to get their veterinarian license in South Africa, a vet nurse and vet student. They scrubbed, cleaned and shaved Natacha first. Then they put a thing on her tongue to monitor breathing and a thermometer in her behind to take her temperature during the operation. During the operation, the vet found a cyst in her ovaries which he removed. He also gave her, vaccinations, tick medicine, flea medicine and vitamins. The surgery went very well and we took Natacha to the Lööf Foundation management camp to wake up and recover.
Next up was Mela. Once the vet darted her she pulled it out with her mouth and tried to eat it. I was concerned that she didn’t receive enough anesthetic, however the vet told me that as soon as the dart hits, the anesthesia enters the bloodstream immediately. We saw it working as she started to vomit. It was harder to get her out of the enclosure as Taai sat right next to her being very protective. We had to eventually spray him with water to scare him off, long enough to get Mela out of the enclosure. During her operation, her pulse was higher than Natacha’s, which is because Mela is fatter and therefore the anesthetic goes to fat instead of the brain, making the brain not calm down as much as it should. They gave her more anesthetic and her surgery went great as well and returned her to an enclosure for her to recover.
It was such a neat experience to be able to be a part of such a unique day and help cover the cost for both surgeries! It feels great to help Andi fulfill one of her mission statements, to not have anymore lions bred within captivity. We finished this exciting day off by all enjoying dinner together. Tomorrow we will help do a fence check at 8:00am, help build toilets, and take Mulan to a veterinarian clinic in Pretoria as she is sick and has some fractured legs that need to be checked and fixed. A great day at Love Lions Alive Sanctuary, and of course never a dull moment when working with lions!
Lööf Foundation Chairman and Founder