We were now heading to the injured lioness’ secure rehab unit. Along the way Brian gently pulled back a tarp ever so slightly to let us peek in on a jittery Brown Hyena almost fully recovered and soon to be released. He beckoned us to follow him inside this small dimly lit corridor. He spoke softly as we approached the second cage. I was stealing myself to see this poor lioness just laying there with her horrific wound.After an inspiring visitors’ tour of the Moholoholo rehab center Brian took us behind the scenes. A couple of days earlier they’d been called out to a mass snaring. Must have been awful! An entire lion pride (six), a wildebeest, two hyenas and a vulture had been brutally caught. Only one lioness with huge neck wounds and broken teeth hung to life the rest had died a slow painful death.
Roooooaaaaaaar! My heart leapt into my throat as this huge animal with glowing yellow eyes loudly hurled herself towards us. She swung around and crouched in the corner facing us with those menacing eyes. It took every bit of courage I had not to retreat and dash out the door to safety. Here before me was this beautiful creature snatched from the jaws of death. Her recovery still precariously in the balance as the gaping hole in her neck can not be stitched and needs to heal from the inside out. Staving off infection being her rescuers biggest challenge.
We lingered for the longest few minutes in recent history. What a contrast! But an hour or so earlier we’d been led past the ambassador animal cages. We’d watched two lions languish in their camp. Watched the cheetah lay in the grass and even the leopard didn’t seem terribly threatening. We’d even put on a handlers glove and hand fed the vultures. But this lioness… now she was truly fresh from the wilds! Her fear of humans was intense and her defenses were on red alert.
She can never be released to the wilds again. Why I asked? For two reasons: Her fangs are gone so she can no longer fend for herself. Her pride is dead and another would never accept her.