Wow: How Lions Are Transported By Plane In South Africa

Filed Under: Misc.

Here’s something airplane related that’s totally random, but kind of cool.

The Bateleurs is a non-profit company in South Africa that recently transported some Kalahari lions, which are known for being the largest lions in Africa. Three of them were recently flown from Khamab Kalahari Reserve to Mabula Game Reserve, with the intent of increasing genetic diversity and reducing population sub-division across lion populations.

The lions each weighed roughly 200kg, and together the three of them were flown on a Pilatus PC-12 between the two reserves. In addition to the pilots, there was also a doctor in the cabin to monitor the animals.

Here are some pictures of the lions being loaded onto the plane:

Obviously I’m no expert on the transport of lions, or on the benefit of transferring lions between reserves, for that matter:

  • While this doesn’t look particularly comfortable, it ultimately seems like they’re trying their best with a very difficult situation, and it’s cool to see how stuff like this is done
  • I’m also not sure how necessary this whole relocation process is, and whether it’s truly for the benefit of the lions, or if tourism is a motivating factor

I did love the safari I went on in South Africa a couple of years ago, including my flight on a Pilatus PC-12.

  1. Even cooler some people are willing to pay up to 100k for a hunting license to travel to Africa and shoot one of those.

  2. Necessary if a preserve has too many or too few lions relative to the other animals. Overall tied to tourism, but in non-kill manner.

  3. I love how you claim to not be an expert and then feel the need to voice your opinion on whether it’s necessary or not, and question the motives of those doing it.

  4. Lions can’t walk that far.
    So…use a private plane that burns 70 gallons of fuel per hour!
    Save the planet!

  5. @Ben I do truly think you need to go on a “true” safari. I know you had an amazing trip and Singita’s are stunningly beautiful properties, but at the end of the day they are private reserves; effectively immense natural zoos. I really do not mean to bash Singita or similar properties because they do a lot of good for the local communities and they are beautiful. I had an amazing stay at a Singita. But after doing a “real” safari in Tanzania and Kenya, there is something very different and special about it compared to what the private reserves can offer. You just feel like you’re truly in the wild. There are some extremely luxurious “glamping” options you could look into, and I’m sure Ford could assist with booking.

  6. Unless very short distances where a plane is not practical this is how it has to be done where they are sedated. Transporting by land in small cages over a long distance is very stressful and the climate has to be regulated. Moving them around to different reserves helps the different populations. It’s not done for tourism. It’s done to make sure there are viable prides.

  7. gives new meaning to the phrase – lay flats
    looks more comfortable than some of the recent flights that I have been on
    at least the passengers are restrained

    sorry – couldn’t resist……

  8. Better behaved than most fellow passengers
    Love to get one as a house pet
    Probably end all solicitors who won’t take no for an answer

  9. The lion is there for your benefit. Wildlife populations are carefully managed in South Africa. Kruger park and other reserves are just that – largest tracts of land with managed wildlife. Some would call them essentially zoos. Nothing surprising here, this is all for tourism. What sells is the property itself; I mean a giraffe is a giraffe right?

  10. Lions kill and eat other wildlife, pets, livestock and people. They are very good at this, almost unstoppable. Consider that any time a smaller but still dangerous cougar frequents a US suburban neighborhood. Nearly always it is killed to eliminate the danger. If there were not game reserves and zoos the extinction of lions would be inevitable. I won’t argue this is not the lesser of evils but, now we have billions of people in the world which makes things more complicated

  11. My first thought looking at the picture of those tranquilized lions in that cabin is man, that guy must really be hoping they got the dose right.

  12. Next time someone you know complains about flying in cattle class because their upgrade didn’t clear, tell them it it still better than lion class

  13. I am raised in Africa. These two reserves are for game preservation , NOT hunting . Hunting is only offered at game farms and lions are not usually included . I am against hunting , but it does keep many people in Africa in a job and feeds their families , that is their argument ( not my argument )

  14. This reserve is not about hunting, true. But hunting is a big business , in which the mega profits go to the organisers/owners, while chicken feed goes to communities. It’s designed for loathsome foreigners ( ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’ , Oscar Wilde) with a (mostly) testosterone-fuelled bloodlust who engage in highly orchestrated ‘canned’ hunts. The repugnant Eric Trump ( anagram: rectum rip) is a case in point.

  15. Can you imagine being the lion and waking up finding yourself somewhere you’d never seen before and wondering how the hell did that happen!

  16. why say they weigh alomst 200 kg? is the blog directed at mostly americans or other people? if americans, then please give the weight in pounds. thank you.

    why cant the weight be given in pounds?

  17. interesting to see what happens when they are denied “their” free-flight beverage or the FA’s run out of their favorite meal….. probably a similar response to some Elite fliers

  18. I cannot convert kg to lb. I never passed sixth grade. Oh wait, I did, but it was in the US so I can’t do arithmetic.

  19. Kg to lb is very simple : x 2.2 , so 200 = 440. It’s long overdue for the US to give up the archaic system of weights and measurements.

  20. Spent 2 months private safari 2019 from TZ(Tanzania) through Zambia Botswania where I got chased by elephant in campground. Namibia, Malawai and back to TZ. 2-3 N.P.’s each country. Etoshi N.P. in Namiba had one campground that had “game park”feel in that it had a water hole and elevatated viewing balcony. But we saw
    all the big 5 and more and didn’t spend hrs doing game drives…. But Namiba parks are really will managed and lots visitors compared to say Kativa N.P. in TZ where we were only tourists in cabins and ln game drive… Most tourists dont get out of the Arusha kilmi northern part TZ. So yea generally big isolated N.P.’s best way if you have time/money to do them.

  21. This is luxury compared to the way black rhinos are transported in Namibia. The rhinos get hung upside down from a helicopter and moved that way! (OK some but not all do and per a study the country paid Cornell it’s actually better for the rhinos than moving them on their sides.)

  22. @Daniel – I believe the US is still using the “pounds” system ? They have never been metric – I’m sure most people have the ability to use their phones to convert

  23. Thanks Ben for such a fun and interesting article. The species would get stronger too with the addition of outside new blood brought into the prides.
    They’re so beautiful to just see them in the wild, it’s a sight to behold!

    And then, there’s always those people that have to berate and put down other people to make them feel better about themselves such as Paolo regarding any comments on safaris for profit. If it weren’t for that, some tribes would probably do something ilegal to generate some form of income.

  24. It’s obviously a good ideas if it has to do with improving the pride’s population and the extensive motives of having more Kalahari sized lions in other new reserves, but tourism is definitely a point to consider. Glad he made there observations himself.

  25. Genetic diversity is crucial to any species survival plan to avoid a genetic bottleneck. Isolated populations are prone to autosomal recessive traits and diseases. Examples of human bottlenecks include the Trail of Tears, which has resulted in higher rates of a rare extreme photosensitivity disorder among the descendants of the survivors, and similarly conditions that crop up now in Ashkenazim. There are also greater incidences of cavernous malformations in descendants of the conquistadors that followed Juan Oñate to New Mexico.

    It also occurs in feral cat colonies, for example. I used to do TNR and I could tell how old and established the colony is based on a kitten’s eye size/clarity/function, because after enough inbred generations it turns out the eyes start shrinking and become prone to infection. A lion cannot survive in the wild without sight, and passing on that lion’s genes puts the extant breeding pool in danger. The goal of these species survival plans is to eventually repopulate the wild, and they need all the help they can get, even if that means airlifting a bunch of snoozing lions to another species survival facility.

  26. How do they ensure that the arriving lions get “accepted” by the prides they are going to?

  27. Please educate yourself, Ben, on how animals be one extinct and what role hans have in that extinction now. In order to ensure genetic diversity amongst animals that can no longer travel freely, as they used to do, their populations must now be managed by humans.

    You stated you knew nothing about the process but then inserted a bunch of random and idiotic opinions. Had you left it it with your opening paragraph and the photos, this would have been quite lovely and self-explanatory. Instead you had to insert yourself in the story. So unnecessary.

    These lions are magnificent creatures and if they are not protected, will become extinct in a few years. You can thank the ignorance of humans for that.

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