Here are a series of images of field work in progress courtesy of Dana Allen of Photosafari-africa.net who came to observe. Hopefully this gives a bit of an idea of the field methods we are using for the lion genetics research.
This was a quick easy darting at Vumbura Plains with a very calm young male lion that allowed us to get in nice and close for a clean easy shot. The rifle, powered using compressed carbon dioxide is a very glorified paint ball gun designed specifically for darting wildlife at close or long range, fully adjustable to accommodate different size darts at ranges up to around 70+ metres, depending on the marksmanship abilities of the wielder!
Once darted the lions will usually jump, look at the ground, sky and close vegetation before wondering off to find a patch of shade with less unidentified biting creatures. There are no drugs involved so the lion does not go to sleep.
Now is the time I have to collect the dart… with great care, attention and not a small amount of adrenaline! Unfortunately this is not a time for posing for photos and is better done at high-speed over as short a distance as possible, so no images of this!
Once collected the tip of the dart is unscrewed to reveal a small piece of skin and tissue attached to the barbed needle contained within. This tissue is carefully transferred to a small vial with a fluid that can preserve the DNA for long periods even at room temperature. An essential thing in these conditions where freezing to -80°C is not too easy. And that is it. The lion can now be left in peace while we try and find the next target and the samples can be kept safely until it can be transported back to the lab in London."
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