A scary encounter between snake & lion

By Caroline Edmonds
Humans intervening with nature is a much-disputed topic with plenty of grey areas. Some argue that nature should not be interfered with at all, while others say that it is acceptable under certain circumstances. In this case, Indira was very lucky to have us on standby to intervene in this life-or-death situation.
At the sanctuary one of the most important daily tasks is “animal checks”. Every morning a member of staff checks the enclosures and fences and then looks at each animal individually to make sure they look healthy and happy. Anything unusual behaviour – limps or injuries – are immediately reported. If it is a minor injury Kevin will check it out and treat it if a vet is not required. Sometimes, however, we come across an emergency situation and have to react quickly.
A small dark mark where the snake bit
Such an incident happened to one of our lionesses, Indira, a member of Thor’s pride. One morning, saw her sitting about 15 meters from the fence, alert, but her face looked decidedly puffy and swollen. She lifted her head slightly and we saw a black mark under her chin. We immediately phoned Kevin as we thought that it was possibly a snake bite and time would be of the essence. Kevin contacted Dr Peter Caldwell, the vet, and after seeing the photos, he decided an emergency visit was needed.
In preparation for the visit the other pride members were locked in the night pen. On arrival, Perter quickly darted and assessed her and was sure she had been bitten by a snake. She was put on a drip and the anti-venom was administered. Peter thoroughly checked her, took blood samples, and then administered the drug to wake her up. The whole procedure took no more than 30 minutes.
We were given strict instructions to monitor and check her often and report to Peter immediately if there was anything untoward. The next 12 hours were vital. Happily, she quickly slept it all off, the swelling started to go down and over the next few days she made an amazing recovery, despite the unfortunate haircut! It is incredible how resilient animals can be.
Indira is shaved so the vet can treat her snake bite
A huge puffadder is found and a pen knife is placed beside it to show its size
During a sweep of the enclosure during feeding the next day we found the culprit, a large puff adder – a highly venomous viper species commonly found in South Africa. The “puffie” unfortunately did not fare so well from its encounter with the lions.

Indira must have seen the snake in the enclosure and was bitten when she attacked it. In this case “curiosity nearly killed the cat”!