Still no sightings of the Houdini of the Kruger 5

Graphic by Benno Stander for illustration purposes only.

KOMATIPOORT – The remaining lion of the Kruger 5 has not yet made an appearance, said Mr Louw Steyn of the MTPA who led the search and relocation of the five escapee lions since Monday.

“We are still awaiting any lion spotters to report sightings that we can follow-up,” said Steyn.

Moving one of the four captured lions to safety. Photo: Cindy van Wyk.

The MTPA will be on standby to relocate the fifth animal once it has been found.

Five lions escaped from the Kruger National Park early Monday morning. On Tuesday four were darted, captured and released in the KNP in the Crocodile Bridge area after a chopper took to the air and spotted them in an enclosure next to the turn-off to Mananga.

READ more about the sequence of events

Neels van Wyk, section ranger of Crocodile bridge area (left) and dr. Marcus Hofmeyr.

No sightings of ‘Houdini’ were reported on Wednesday and up to lunchtime on Thursday.

READ more about when Gerhardus Harmse first spotted the lions on his way to work Monday

Dr. Marcus Hofmeyr,  head of SANParks Veterinary Services said to Lowvelder, that they have not received any information that the fifth lion had been seen.

“There is a possibility that he went back to the park by himself,” said Hofmeyr.

Lowvelder spoke to Paul Silcock about lion behaviour. He worked as a conservationist with lions for thirty years at various Lowveld reserves.

“They must have found a breach in the fence which was most probably left by poachers or where the fence was broken. Burrowing under a fence just isn’t lion behaviour. They are also very wary of humans. Lions are actually not very brave. A single lion is actually quite afraid on his own,” said Silcock.

This what the fence of the KNP looked like in the Crocodile Bridge area during the drought in 2016.

He believes the five lions have made a sibling pact. This might be ‘Houdini’s’ saving grace.

“Their roaring will bring him to the fence. Perhaps the rangers will find him there when they are patrolling and then they can re-unite him with his siblings.”

What the area where the Kruger 5 roamed looks like on Google Earth

He explained it is important that a lion be replenished at a sustainable rate.

“A lion needs his pride to be able to hunt successfully. Lions burn op protein like nothing else. After a week he would already be very weak. They can go nine days at a stretch but after that he will not be able to fend for himself.”

Mr. William Scrooby, a conservationist and “keyboard warrior” from Hermanus said to Lowvelder that his opinion differs from that of  Silcock.

“Young males are dead silent. They try to move under the radar. The most succesfull male lions ever have spent a few years alone. Then they become the real brutes!” said Scrooby.

He pointed out that the dominent male lions have more than likely spent years alone and or in small coalitions before they became dominant.

“The harder the hardship, the tougher and more dominant the lion becomes. Also, young males that has been kicked from the pride would be dead silent. They won’t call as they are afraid of the dominant lion in the area. They would also do anything  like digging, climbing fences to get away if they are being chased by such a male.”

VIEW seven funny tweets about the lions’ escape

A biker who regularly drives along the dirt road next to the fence in the Crocodile Bridge area said the fifth lion will not have any problem crossing back in to the Kruger as the fence is in disrepair at some places.

“I have often stopped to take a break in that area and there are places where he can easily get back into the park.”

 

  AUTHOR
Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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