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Amazing, Wild Kariba beware.

A terrible tragedy played out on the shores of Lake Kariba in September. A deck hand from a mooring houseboat, leapt ashore to secure the mooring lines, and while doing so, was attacked and killed by lions. The death of the crew member as a result of a seemingly simple task, which is played out hundreds of times a month around the lake, represents the greatest loss but is not the only casualty in this affair. The lions themselves were part of an ongoing, comprehensive research program into Matusadona's lion population and ironically were being monitored by researchers shortly before the attack took place, setting the scene for all the players in this malady, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

ALERT, who are carrying out the research, made an official statement shortly after the attack on September 4th, stating "ALERT's Principle Researcher for the Matusadona Lion Project was tracking lionesses from the Eastern Pride in the Mucheni area. A visual was obtained at 5pm and they were followed as they headed south west to the other side of the peninsula they were on. After losing visual contact the researcher anticipated their movements and waited at a look-out point some distance away. At this time a houseboat was arriving into the nearby bay. Just after 6pm--when lions are often at their most active--shouting was heard from the houseboat and our researcher arrived at the scene within 10 minutes to find an employee had been attacked by the lions."

Matusadona is a National Park, and due to its location and general lack of infrastructure, is a very wild area. Few people realise that within this amazingly beautiful and rugged wilderness, danger lurks at every turn. It was only a few years back, that the team of boaters participating in the annual "Turbo Challenge"--which sees owners of Turbo Glass boats crossing the lake from west to east, and back again--nearly lost one of their team to lions while camping at Tashinga, the National Parks camp area on the shores of the lake.

While crocodiles have been much in the limelight recently, visitors to the lake, and especially those fishing and mooring along the Matusadona shoreline should be more aware of the dangers there. Not only lion, but buffalo, elephant--and if you are really fortunate (or unfortunate as the case may be) rhino could be lethal if encountered while on the shore.

The researcher at the scene did try to intervene, but with dark approaching the lions were emboldened and not easily chased off. They say "Using the research vehicle the lions were driven off the victim but first aid unfortunately could not be given as the lions remained in too close proximity. The man sadly passed away at the scene. Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority scouts arrived shortly after, and with their help, as well as that of a paramedic on the houseboat, the victim's body was safely retrieved." Very sad indeed.

Two lionesses, known within the Matusadona Lion Project study as F106, "Gogo", and F114, "Ngoda", were subsequently destroyed by Park's staff following this incident. There was no evidence to suggest either of these lions was injured or ill prompting them to attack a human. It is believed because the victim was moving alone at night in the bushes he may have approached the lions unknowingly and presented an opportunity the lions did not ignore. The lazy, lounging and even playful demeanour of daylight lions change dramatically when night falls. Under cover of darkness, lions become the supreme predator and hunter. If for whatever reason visitors need to be on shore in a National Park at night, be sure to have a bright light or torch and move in a group if possible. Lions are afraid of few things at night, but light is one thing which will invariable make them wary.

ALERT's project is no doubt hampered by the incident too, and they comment "This has been a huge blow for the Park, the lion population and the study, however the real tragedy is in the loss of the victim. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with his family left behind."

More information on the incident and ALERT can be gained from their website--http://www.lion alert.org/article/ Matusadona_Lion_Project_Update.
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Title Annotation:This N That
Publication:African Fisherman
Date:Dec 1, 2014
Words:716
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