UPDATE: Last of Kruger 5 most likely found his way across N4

UPDATE 10 May 11:00

KOMATIPOORT – The search for the last lion of the Kruger 5 was called off last night at dark. A spokesperson for the MTPA said today that this sub adult male most probably walked across the road from the cattle camp on the Mananga turn-off across the N4 to the Kruger National Park side of the road.

Dr. Marcus Hofmeyr, head of SANParks Veterinary Services is on standby to help with the last escapee lion today.

The farmer of the property on which the lions were hiding and where they caught some cattle, has removed the carcass on which the lions were feeding yesterday morning.

The last lion of the Kruger 5 was in the sugar cane fields for a while but most probably at present on his way to find the other four sub-adult males who have been darted, captured and released a way off from the gate of the Crocodile Bridge camp in the KNP.

The chopper did not take to the air today as nobody would be able to spot the lion among the sugar cane and thick bush.

To put the chopper into the air costs SANParks R 8000 per hour.

Mr Louw Steyn, leader of the MTPA-team relocating the five lions, said that the team is awaiting calls from lion spotters from the communities and anyone who might find tracks of the lion.

One of the captured Kruger 5 on his way back to the KNP.

“We are requesting communities to phone us to report any sightings of the lion or of his tracks,” said Steyn.

Tracks are what the searching teams are presently looking for.

Mr Ike Phaahla, media specialist from SANParks, requested that anyone spotting the lions or any tracks should not approach the lion as he could be dangerous.

“We have a vet and a team standing by to react immediately once a sighting have been reported,” said Phaahla.

  • SANParks would like to reiterate the police call for residents to be extra vigilant and report any sighting of the remaining lion still at large to the authorities on 080010111, 0768019679 or 013 735 0197.

Photographs: Cindy van Wyk

UPDATE: 17:00

KOMATIPOORT – Lions numbers three and four have been safely darted and captured by the rangers of SANParks and the team of the MTPA and sent off to an area quite far beyond Crocodile Bridge after SANParks sent in another chopper to make sure that the dark doesn’t catch them unawares.

Mr Ike Phaahla said to Lowvelder just before 17:00 that a team will remain looking for the last escapee in the enclosure on a farm 60 kilometres from the Swaziland border.

“Our team of SANParks rangers were relentless in ensuring the safety of the communities and the lions in their search. The team of the MTPA was leading the operation with determination and we had the help of the Traffic Department of Mpumalanga as well as the fulltime help of members of  SAPS,” said Phaahla.

He also thanked the farmers for opening their farms to enable the teams to search for the escapees.

UPDATE: 15:30

Another lion has been darted and taken back on a Cruiser to be released in the Crocodile Bridge area.

 

This has been confirmed by Mr Louw Steyn of the MTPA. “Everything went well. We got hold of him right in the middle of the enclosure for the cattle and could ensure that he get a safe exit from the camp to the vehicle,” said Steyn to Lowvelder.

Mr. Ike Phaahla of SANParks said to Lowvelder that the unfortunate aspect is that there is only an hour of light left for the chopper to fly to ge thold of the three other escapees.

He explained that it is thought that the five subadult males were driven out of their pride but no information as yet is available about the details.

Foto: Marietjie Victor

EARLIER THIS AFTERNOON: KOMATIPOORT – Five lions that escaped from the Kruger National Park have been tracked down 60 kilometres from the Mananga border from Swaziland by the SANParks’ chopper pilot just before midday today.

One has been darted and is safely on a Cruiser and set to be taken back to the KNP in the Crocodile Bridge area.

The chopper is at present without fuel and refuelling to soon take to the air again.

READ about the lions’ escape yesterday

A spokesman of the MTPA said to Lowvelder that it is an incredible difficult terrain to find the lions and to manoeuvre the chopper.

Mr. Ike Phaahla, SANParks media specialist, said to Lowvelder that four of the lions were still elusive but that they have been spotted in an enclosure of eight hectares where a farmer of Komatipoort keeps his cattle. They are not  close to the sugar cane farms.

A carcass of a cow was found this morning. The lions were on this carcass and were spotted by officials of the MTPA. Cars however started chasing around in the bush very early this morning with spectators who wanted to see what was happening and a golden opportunity was missed by the officials to capture the lions.

An eyewitness who did not want to be named called it “an absolute circus.”

Cars in the region of where the chopper is looking for the escaped lions.

SANParks is preparing to recapture the other lions. Phaahla said that the animals’ reaction to sounds of the cars and people might have driven them into hiding. He requested drivers and passengers to stay in their cars on the N4.

Lt Col Charles Sithabathaba of the SANDF on the border said that he has advised his officers and troops patrolling the border that the lions are in their area. The army has a base at Macadamia which is on the road to Mananga.

Mr Rey Thakuli, general manager: Media, Events and Stakeholders at SANParks urged people to refrain from taking photographs of “these animals as they are dangerous predators.”

He said investigations are underway to determine how the lions managed to leave the park. The five sub adult male lions are believed to have been chased out by a dominant pride.

SANParks would like to reiterate the police call for residents to be extra vigilant and report any sighting of these dangerous predators to the authorities on 080010111, 0768019679 or 013 735 0197.

  AUTHOR
Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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