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It's first thing in the morning and the vets have arrived.
We're at the lion enclosure
and it's a big day for two of Longleat's young lions.
Coming up, one of Britain's rarest and wisest birds gets in a flap.
Lionesses Jazira and Melika both need an operation, but getting them on their own proves a real challenge.
So the one that we don't want has gone through?
And, back in Africa, an orphaned hyena must be drugged
in order to return her to the wild, but something goes horribly wrong.
Why isn't she waking up though?
But first, two of Longleat's youngest lionesses
are in for a difficult day.
We've come to the lion house to meet Deputy Head of Section, Bob Trollope,
and to see this extraordinary expanding lion family, Bob.
I can't believe how many lions there suddenly seem to be!
When we left last year, there were four little bundles,
two medium sized ones and the family. Now you can barely tell them apart.
-Well, this is one of the little bundles here.
-Little bundles!? Look at the size of them!
So they must be almost exactly a year old now?
-Yeah, about a year old, yep.
-And Melika and Jazira, the medium sized ones when we left, how old are they?
They're just getting up to about two years old. Hello, darling.
-Now, Melika is what today's all about, isn't it?
Melika and Jazira is what today's all about.
They're getting to that age now where, let's just say, Dad's taking an interest
-and obviously we want to prevent any unwanted births.
So, what we're going to be doing is putting what they call a melengestrol implant,
which is a contraceptive implant, into Melika and Jazira.
OK. Now, that sounds relatively simple, but I guess it's not.
What's going to be involved?
Well, the main thing that we have to do right at this moment is obviously separate Melika and Jazira.
If everything goes to plan,
then it might be five minutes.
If they decide to play up, then we could be here for 20 minutes.
Tell you what, we'll let you be the brains and we'll be the brawn.
-How about that?
-Yeah, exactly. All right, Bob, we'll follow you.
The first lion we need to move out is Kabir, the big pride male.
Separating individual lions from the pride
is done using a whole series of doors and gates -
inside the house and in the run that leads to the paddock.
OK, Bob, so what's going to happen out here?
-Well, Kabir is going to be coming out of that tunnel up there.
-I'll stay up by the house so I can stop him from going back up the tunnel.
-Once he's out here, I might have to chase him down a bit.
-Shut this one, which is very important.
-It's just a case of just pushing it.
While Bob and Ben get ready to man the gates outside,
Head of Section, Brian Kent, is showing me the ropes indoors.
So you want me to pull this one, is it this one here?
-This one here? OK.
OK, that back slide's now open.
Go on, Kabir, out you go!
So, we just need to wait for him to decide that he wants to go out.
-What we need to do is open and shut the door again.
-OK, and make a racket?
-Make some noise.
I shall give that a go.
-Maybe if we walk round the back.
-Shall we try?
-He might come up then.
OK, let's give that a go.
Come on! Come on! Look!
It's lovely out here, Kabir.
-Here he comes.
-Oh, fantastic! I'll whiz round, Brian, and shut the door.
And tell Bob that he's coming. ..Bob! He's coming!
Tell me when, Bob. Now?
There you go.
Ah! One out, six to go.
And this is going to be the really tricky part.
If you open that one up slightly.
-See what goes through. We don't want that one.
OK, the one that we don't want has gone through.
-If you open it back up again.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
So, what can I do?
We've got to try and persuade mum out of this hatch over here now.
-Yep. That's it, she's gone.
-Oh, she's on her way.
I'll take the smaller one.
You're so un-chivalrous!
That's it! That's the job done.
Well, that was a bit of a jigsaw, wasn't it?
I'm breathless just by separating them. I can't imagine the actual procedure later on.
Absolutely! Join us in a bit when Duncan the vet will be here
and Melika and Jazira will have their little operations.
Four Longleat keepers are on a fact-finding mission in Tanzania.
Ryan Hockley, Bev Allan and Michelle Stevens
are led by Head Warden, Keith Harris.
But this is no safari, it's been an opportunity to work and live with Tony Fitzjohn,
one of the all-time greats of African conservation.
Ryan and Keith have helped move a pack of endangered hunting dogs
as part of a release programme to save them from extinction,
and Bev encountered her first ever wild tortoise.
Fitz was the apprentice of this man, George Adamson, made famous through the book and film, Born Free,
and Michelle has the chance to continue Adamson's work
by helping release a striped hyena back to the wild today.
Fisi was taken to the snake park just outside of Arusha as an orphan, when she was really quite small,
and reared by two South Africans that owned the place.
She was always causing trouble, she'd come up and chew your leg
and chew your ankles and chew your hand,
-and then she'd break out and eat the little day-old chicks that were...
Although native to Africa, the striped hyena is increasingly rare due to hunting
and the destruction of their natural habitat.
18 month old Fisi arrived at Mkomazi just four weeks ago
so Fitz could release her into the park to breed with the other striped hyenas.
I think putting her back in the rhino sanctuary, where there's more striped hyena and bags of room,
will give us more time to find out about her.
There's very little known about these animals.
So Fitz can monitor Fisi's movements once she's been released,
he's fitting her with a special collar with a radio location device.
Even though she's used to her keeper, Simon,
Fisi is still a potentially dangerous animal,
so the collar can only be fitted when she's under sedation.
Fitz has over 40 years experience working with African wildlife,
but anaesthetising wild animals is always a potentially risky procedure.
She's never had a dart in her, so I don't know how she'll react.
Maybe it would be a good thing if people stand back a bit.
We'll aim for her hind quarters, it's the safest place to put the dart in.
Hello, big girl.
The darting may look uncomfortable,
but it's the simplest way to alleviate any distress for Fisi when the tracking collar is fitted.
Yeah, it all went in,
but we may have to distract her so she doesn't pull the dart out.
Within a couple of minutes,
the sedative starts to take effect and the team can get to work.
Breathing's steady, Michelle.
-Can I touch her?
-Oh, she's really rough!
Once the special tracking collar is in place,
Fitz has a chance to make sure Fisi's in good health before she's released, and Michelle gets the chance to help.
OK, now, let's check her for tics.
OK, fleas, she seems amazingly free of all sorts of things.
Teeth are all good. OK, gums are good.
At Longleat, Michelle normally looks after sea-lions, hippos and gorillas,
so by coming to Mkomazi, she's getting an invaluable opportunity to broaden her knowledge.
This is really... I can't describe this, it's just amazing being this close.
I've never been this close to anything like this before,
so it's always a good opportunity when an animal is under anaesthetic
just to have a good look at them and just to explore them.
I mean, look at this long hair, it's amazing.
Fitz is satisfied that Fisi is in good health
and so it's time to give her another injection to bring her round.
Do you want to inject the antidote?
Can do! Where to?
-In the rump.
-Nice juicy bit in the rump, straight in.
Thank you. Now, because we don't know what's going to happen, we should all stand back a bit.
This is always a nervous time, isn't it?
It can go either way, can't it?
It should only take a few minutes for Fisi to wake up,
but bringing an animal out from sedation is always an anxious moment.
However many animals you sedate, for whatever reason, you always worry.
Every now and then you get caught by surprise, there's a bad reaction or something.
There's some big breaths going on.
Worryingly, there's still no sign of Fisi coming round.
Why isn't she waking up though?
We'll find out if Fisi comes out of the anaesthetic later.
Just like Fisi in Africa, the lions of Longleat also need sedation
so that the vets can operate on them safely and implant their contraceptives.
Now that Jezira and Melika have been isolated into separate pens, the sedation can begin.
So, these are basically general anaesthetic?
-And the idea is to administer them with a blow pipe?
Blow pipe into the muscle of the back leg.
-Right, so you'll be aiming for her hind quarters presumably?
Well, I'll let you get started.
-Look at her, she's looking very alert suddenly.
-All right, girl.
Each lion's dose of anaesthetic drug has been split into two separate darts,
that way the darts can be lighter with smaller needles.
Oh, good shot, Brian.
-All right, all right!
-All right, girl.
-All right, that's her done.
-OK, there's the next one.
Now, Jazira here is looking a little bit hunched and a little bit unhappy.
-She's obviously seen what's happened and wants to get out of the way.
-Yes, so this one could be trickier.
Shh, shh, shh. Jazira.
That's one gone.
If we look over at Melika now,
-she's definitely beginning to look a little bit dopey.
All right. Well, girls, sleep well and we'll see you in a bit.
Back in the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania,
Fitz and Michelle are waiting to see if Fisi, the striped hyena, is going to come round from her sedation.
She's moving now, her ears are back.
Sedating a wild animal is always a risky procedure,
so Fitz and Michelle are relieved when she gets back on her feet
and groggily stumbles to the safety of her den.
I mean, talk about heading for home!
Fisi has been fitted with a special collar with a radio location device
that will enable Fitz to monitor her movements once she's released back into the wild.
There she goes! Now, this is better.
Simon's the one she likes to bite, and that's what she's doing.
Simon was saying that she's biting a little bit harder than normal when she normally plays with him,
but that's understandable.
That's happened before with other animals,
they just want to let you know that something funny has gone on and they're not impressed.
So, now Fisi's almost back to her normal, playful self,
Fitz and Michelle leave her to rest overnight as tomorrow's a big day.
Back in Pet's Corner, I've come up to see one of Britain's rarest birds.
This is Harriet the barn owl and I'm with keeper, Val McGruger,
to give her an MOT, a kind of once-over, isn't it?
Yes, that's right. We're going to weigh her, have a look at her, see she's looking OK.
A little while ago she was sitting on eggs which proved to be infertile,
so there was no young in there at all,
but just keeping a general check on her, making sure she's back to normal.
OK, so what's the first thing you'll do when you're giving her a check?
-What do you look for?
-Well, as with lots of animals,
you usually look at their eyes, see if they're bright, which hers are.
-We're looking at her wing feathers.
-Yep, that was a perfect display, right on cue.
Lovely wing feathers, all nice and smart and fluffy.
She's cleaned herself up now, she's had a bath.
Talons, of course, have got to be nice and sharp.
They look incredibly sharp actually, which is why you wear that glove.
Exactly, yeah, although she's quite happy sat on a hand, it would still make pinpricks in your hand.
-So how old do you think Harriet is? Do you know her age?
She's ten, and what is the life expectancy of an owl?
Well, in the wild it would only be two to three years on average, but in captivity it can be 20, 25 years.
-Is it that much more?
-There's a huge difference.
-A lot of that is due to people unfortunately.
The first year we lose a lot anyway. Natural causes. Whoa! Sorry, Ben.
-There we go, flapping in the face there.
-Yeah, but the rest of it is down to us and the way we live today, really.
-roads, a lot of barn owls get killed on the roads.
Because they go backwards and forwards looking for food.
Of course, and food being mice and little rodents presumably?
-Yes, small rodents would be their favourite. 95% of their diet would be small rodents.
But having said that, they will eat other things if that's not available.
-So, what next?
-Right, if you would like to put this T-stand on first.
-OK, so pop this on...
-That's it, there we go.
Why do we need to weigh her?
Just to check she's eating properly and, also, because she's had eggs in her,
just checking that she hasn't got one retained in her.
Oh, and you'd be able to identify that if she gained weight?
With the weight, yeah, if she had the weight. Also, you'd go on behaviour.
There's lots of ways of telling, but weighing is one.
-So we've got there...
-379 grams I think.
So, you're happy with that weight?
Yes, I am. Wild barn owls tend to be a little lighter.
she averages 380 to 400, so that's not bad at all.
And there is the possibility then that she could lay more eggs?
-It is possible, she has laid eggs in the past, but none of them have been fertile.
She does live here with Ollie.
Yeah, Ollie is just hiding up in the corner there.
-Unfortunately, she's not terribly fond of him.
-OK, but happy then with her once-over?
I think so. She's looking very perky and everything, she's back to normal now, so I think that's really good.
She does, she looks beautiful. Val, thank you very much.
-Thank you, Harriet.
Back up at the lion enclosure and all the vets have arrived.
Duncan Williams, Paul Higgs and Sarah Balsdon will be performing the operations on Melika and Jazira,
but the most important thing to find out is if the anaesthetic has worked.
-Bob and Brian are both here. Is there a risk that she could still be a little bit alert?
What we're going to do is with a broom handle, we're going to give her a bit of a tap.
Duncan, while they're testing her, not much of a reaction there.
I think she'll be all right, Brian.
Now, this anaesthetic, will it last for a long time?
It'll probably last 20 minutes, half an hour,
before you start getting recovery, probably longer.
-But even if the procedure did take longer,
we could top it up by giving them a bit more injection.
But now, Melika is well and truly out, so the team move in.
She and her sister must each have a slow-release contraceptive implant
and the first thing is to shave a patch behind her shoulder blades where it needs to go.
So, Paul, you're going to be actually doing the procedure.
Why don't you just give her a pill?
Why go through the risk of putting her under anaesthetic?
Usually the pill is every day and that's not something we can guarantee,
but this implant's going to last for up to two years.
-So it makes life a lot easier that way.
So this is the implant here.
How does it work, Duncan, this implant?
Does the drug just seep gradually out?
I think so, it's a sort of silicon pipe
and basically it's permeable and the drug just gets absorbed
at a very low level for basically two years, that's what they recommend they last for.
-It's all in by the looks of things.
-Yeah. It's lying under the skin now.
-It looks very neat.
-So, we now just need to stitch up that little hole
and we're going to hopefully try and do it without getting any stitches
-actually showing outside the skin at all.
They are absorbable so it wouldn't matter if we did,
but it just actually makes it a bit less uncomfortable for them,
and also when you've got the risk of mutual grooming and things,
we don't want our stitches to be licked out by another lion.
You're doing a very neat job there, Paul.
-Were you a good sewer at school?
Suddenly, Melika starts to twitch.
But Duncan's not worried.
This is the just the anaesthetic doing this, she's not coming round.
That's the voice of experience.
I've been with you when you've anaesthetised a lot of cats and I will believe you,
but it does look a little alarming.
In fact, just moments later the stitches are finished
and the team can safely leave her to come round on her own.
Melika's all done, Jazira is now having her little procedure.
-Everything going OK, Bob?
-Yeah, it seems to be.
Good, good. Well, while she's out and we have this wonderful privileged view of being so close to her,
I just wanted to have a look at her paws, if I can,
because I think it is one of the most impressive parts of a lion.
Yes, well, these things here are the things that do most of the damage.
If they were chasing a buffalo or whatever,
they would hold onto that buffalo by piercing into the skin and gripping onto it,
and that's what they would do.
But with claws that size, you can see why a buffalo wouldn't last very long.
No, you can just feel the ends there.
Be careful because they are really, really sharp.
They really are sharp, and that's with no pressure at all.
They look, even now, they're two years old,
but they almost look too big for their bodies.
-Is this a sign that they've still growing to do?
-They've a lot more growing to do, yeah.
They are very, very pretty. It's something quite alarming,
even though I know she's completely under anaesthetic,
she's breathing very steadily, but her eyes are open
and even under anaesthetic, she just looks so alert, doesn't she?
There's no kind of cloudiness or drugged look at all,
she looks absolutely on the ball.
Well, Duncan, two very successful-looking operations.
-Yep, we'll give the reversal agent now and reposition them, make them a bit more comfortable.
And how long do you think it'll take for her to come round?
She'll probably come round in half an hour to an hour I think.
OK, well, we will leave both these girls in peace
and look forward to catching up with them again a little bit later.
Thank you all very much indeed for letting us be here. Good girl.
Earlier on in the Mkomazi Game Reserve,
following the fitting of her special radio transmitting collar,
it was time for Fisi, the striped hyena, to be released back into the wild.
Now Fitz and Michelle have come back to see how Fisi's keeper, Simon, has got on.
THEY SPEAK IN NATIVE LANGUAGE
She came out, went through the fence into the main part of the sanctuary and she's gone into the bush there.
-We've got the machinery, we know the collar's working, let's look for her.
Fitz has fitted Fisi with the radio-transmitting collar so that he can track her progress in the wild.
It doesn't take him long to pick up a signal.
The strength and frequency of the beeps tells Fitz which direction to look in.
-I can see something, I don't know if that's her.
-Here she is!
-I saw her.
-Here we are, Fis!
I thought I could see something.
-Yeah, well done!
-Apart from a bloody nose,
Fisi seems in perfect health and has found a new, comfortable home.
She's found a beautiful sandy place, beneath a rocky outcrop,
protected from rain
and just a classic place for a striped hyena to lie out.
It couldn't be better than that, Simon. She has every chance now to become a real hyena.
She's never hunted before, has she?
She hasn't, but I don't think she'll bother.
They scavenge, they have a very simple diet, they eat very small crustaceans and ants.
She's not fussy at all?
-Maybe even lizards.
-Will you feed her initially? Just a little bit?
-Of course! Of course!
If she heads back, she'll get fed, and then after a couple of days,
if she hasn't headed back, we'll look for her and give her something if she needs it, make sure she's OK.
So, Fisi's release has been a success.
I hope she just continues to explore the environment.
I hope she meets up with other striped hyena, maybe in the long-term have a family of her own.
She's got her life ahead of her now, she's a young hyena, she's got everything to look forward to.
Being involved in the tagging and release of an orphaned animal
has been an amazing chance for Michelle to learn about conservation first-hand.
This has been a really excellent experience for me.
Not many people get hands-on experience doing this sort of thing
and it's a positive thing to do, it is conservation as its best.
You always want animals to be where they naturally should be
and it's been achieved today, and it's really been brilliant.
It's great, a really good feeling.
It's been some time now since Jazira and Melika, the two lions, underwent surgery.
So, Kate and I have come back up to the lion reserve to find out how they're doing.
Now, Bob, this is Jazira, is that right?
-No, this is Melika.
-This is Melika.
And obviously much more perky than when we last saw her.
-Yes, she was pretty groggy.
-They both were. They both looked incredibly sleepy.
It was obviously too dangerous for them for us to let them out.
Yeah. How long did they have to stay in before you felt it was safe to let them out again?
We left them in overnight,
we assessed the situation in the morning. So, yeah, she was fine,
-she was up and about and she was not very happy to see us!
But, yeah, we decided at that time to let her go.
Bob, I know one of your concerns was about reintegrating back into the pride here,
but judging by how close she is to the others, has she settled back in?
-We were more concerned about Kabir, because he's a big animal.
And when we let him out, he just went up, sniffed them and carried on in his stride really.
Didn't seem too bothered at all?
-Not too fazed at all.
-Jazira, yeah, she's up there.
-Could we pop around?
-Why is she on her own up here?
Because she's been chasing our food vehicle around.
So she's obviously back on form too! Looking great actually, isn't she?
No, don't stalk us as well, Jazira, just because you're cross with us.
That must be a fantastic sign for you, Bob, to see them up like this, alert.
-Back to normal, yeah, brilliant. That's what we want after an operation.
-And, above all, no unwanted lions.
Well, Bob, I'm delighted they've made such a full recovery.
Thank you very much, and, sadly, that's all we've got time for today,
but here's what's coming up on the next Animal Park.
There's a new arrival at the park,
but this one's got a face surely only a mother could love.
We find out why Deputy Head Warden Ian Turner also assumes the role of park paparazzo.
And Kadu, Longleat's oldest tiger, has to go under anaesthetic.
Last time she nearly died, will she survive again?
So don't miss the next Animal Park.
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