On the morning of 25th June the Ngamo research team discovered 7½ year old Narnia with her back legs seemingly paralyzed. She was removed to the release site’s management enclosure and a vet called. Whilst this condition has many possible causes, we have been advised that the most likely diagnosis is a prolapsed (or slipped) disc.
A prolapsed disc occurs when the circle of connective tissue surrounding the disc breaks down. This allows the soft, gel-like part of the disc to swell and protrude out. It is not always clear what causes the connective tissue to break down. However, slipped discs are often the result of increasing age; as the lion gets older, the spinal discs start to lose their water content. This makes them less flexible and more likely to rupture or split. There are a number of other factors that can put increased pressure and strain on the spine including bending awkwardly or an injury to the back (such as being kicked by a zebra during a hunt).
The vets have prescribed a course of treatment and our team will be monitoring Narnia’s progress. Over the past 72 hours Narnia (pictured below with her sister Nala) has been seen gaining increasing movement in both her affected legs, but these are early days. She does not appear to be in significant distress although we are aware that her condition, confinement and isolation from her pride mates is distressing. We cannot be 100% sure the initial diagnosis is correct and are considering other possibilities. Also, whilst prolapsed discs can repair themselves, given time, in some species we have no way of knowing whether this will occur in this instance.
The vets will return in a few days to assess Narnia's progress towards recovery.