The lions which broke lockdown in the Lichtenburg area of the North West after strolling through a broken fence, have been rounded up.
The residents of the surrounding area can sleep soundly again. The lions escaped through an inner perimeter fence on Friday.
It is suspected the fence had been cut open as part of a poaching attempt.
The lions’ disappearance set off a massive search involving vets, officials from the province’s Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism (DEDECT), local residents and police.
“They were all rounded up within 12 hours,” said Cindy Zwane, regional manager for inspections.
Apart from the last reluctant lion, who was darted to be taken back in, all, including the darted lion, appeared to be healthy.
Department spokesperson Dumisa Seshabela said the 14 lions escaped from a privately owned farm, 5km outside Lichtenburg, along the R505 near Ottoshoop.
URGENT NOTICE – The Department hereby cautions community members around Lichtenburg and adjacent farms to be extra careful as 19 lions have escaped from their cage at a facility approximately 5kms outside of Lichtenburg on the Ottoshoop road (R505). pic.twitter.com/oizLGIwiDv
— North West DEDECT (@NWPG_Dedect) August 1, 2020
During the search, a hole cut in the fence was found, which set off poaching concerns.
She said 13 were back in by 01:00 and the last was in by 09:00 on Saturday.
The fence was fixed before the search party left.
This is unlike the fate of other lions in the past, who had their paws hacked off, and were left to die.
The name of the farm was not disclosed, but Zwane said it is not a visitors’ farm. He added that all was in order for the farm to be permitted to keep lions, with regard to licensing and conditions.The lions that escaped from near Lichtenburg, back home.News24 Cindy Zwane
Lions are among animals protected by law, but are poached for various body parts, such as their bones, depending on the end-user’s needs.
The Mail&Guardian reported in 2019 that the government’s decision to set a quota for the export of 800 lion skeletons was declared “unlawful and constitutionally invalid” after an application by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA).
National Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise told News24 that Minister Barbara Creecy had appointed a panel of exports to analyse the issues surrounding the breeding of lions in captivity, hunting and the trade in lion bones after concerns raised over the animals’ fate.
The findings will guide the direction of South Africa’s policy.
Modise said the 2019 and 2020 export quotas have in the meantime been deferred.
When the lions escaped, writer, actor and comedian Lesegi Tlhabi had a dig at former cricketer Kevin Pietersen, whose plea that unless the tourism sector received urgent help during the lockdown, was bookended with the comment: “…Without tourism, the animals will go.”