Lion receives life-saving bush surgery


There is an Afrikaans saying “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” meaning that South Africans are resilient and innovative and when needed can come up with a plan to deal with problems.  This was most definitely the case when a pride male was seriously injured in a territorial dispute with another coalition of males.  Fortunately, he managed to retain his females and territory, but he paid a heavy price that could ultimately lead to his death.

During the fight, the male’s entire upper lip was torn in two pieces leaving him with an excruciating painful wound that was becoming badly infected.  The danger was that as the wound became increasingly infected the lion eventually would most probably have been unable to feed and would slowly starve to death.  Losing physical condition would also make him very vulnerable to attacks from other lions.

At SanWild we have absolutely no problem with intervening in nature when a wild animal needs help. It is also our opinion that man has intervened in nature for so long for our own benefit that we have a moral obligation to help when we can alleviate pain and suffering.

The large male was darted and readied for bush surgery which is something we have become accustomed to doing very well over the years.

It is ultimately one of our goals to raise funding to build a specialist veterinary and rehabilitation training facility at SanWild, but this unfortunately will not be easy and therefore we have learnt to do with what is available to us.

The extent of the injuries to this beautiful lion face was severe and infection had already set in.  Fortunately, he was spotted in time to deal with it.

The first step was to remove all the dead and decaying flesh from the wound with a scalpel by careful scraping.  Once the wound was bleeding profusely because the dead tissue had been removed the wound was thoroughly cleaned and washed.

Closing and stitching up a wound like this would prove to be extremely difficult as normal gut used for sowing up wounds would simply tear away when the lion was feeding.  The flesh of the lips is very thick and heavy and the thin gut would simply not hold it together.  Within a couple of days, the wound would be open again.  A plan was needed to deal with this.

It was decided to use stainless steel wire strains for extra strength instead of just gut to hold the flesh together.  Once the steel wire strains were in; the veterinarian meticulously stitched the wound with smaller self-dissolving stitches.  Once the wound had healed sufficiently the steel-wire strains would be removed and the lion should be as good as new.

For now, he will be kept in one of our holding enclosures and be given anti-biotics to fight any possible infection.  To make life easier for this lion he will also have his food cut up into bite sized chunks so that it is not necessary for him to tear flesh while his injury heals.

We will keep you posted on his progress.

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