The South African National Parks said in a statement today the Karoo lion known as Sylvester which had escaped the park for a second time would not be immediately shot.
“SANParks wishes to reassure members of the public that measures are in place to safely capture the lion that escaped from the Karoo National Park earlier this week.
“A statement was released prematurely on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 and SANParks apologises to the public for the incorrect statement, which did not accurately reflect the organisation’s position,” the entity said.
However, SANParks said it would like to make it known to the public “we are dealing with a dangerous and ever changing situation, and as such decisions related to the capture of the lion will be informed by the situation at the moment of capture.”
The lion is currently roaming a remote mountainous area and it is hoped that it will not encounter humans. SANParks noted where there is livestock, which it is most likely to prey on, there was a strong possibility there may be humans in the vicinity.
“Thus, the people in the local area are asked to exercise extreme caution. SANParks further reiterates that members of the public should not approach the animal,” said the statement.
Outrage was sparked on social media when it came to light SANParks was apparently going to shoot the “damage-causing animal” however it is considering a number of options once it is captured “in line with the Norms and Standards for the Management of Damage-Causing Animals”.
The options include:
• Bringing the lion back to the park and looking at improving on fencing and other preventative measures
• Translocate the lion to another national park
• Donate the lion to another state owned conservation entity
• Donate the lion to a private conservation entity
• Euthanise the lion if the damage caused is massive and may include danger to people and/or loss of human life, and massive loss of assets.
Specifically, said SANparks, the loss of human life poses an even greater danger as the animal may lose fear for humans and see them as easy prey.
“In considering these measures to deal with damage causing animals we should be aware of the reality that such an animal can pose a very real danger to human life. Our actions in this regard are in line with international norms and standards,” added SANParks.
The organisation said there were a number of challenges related to capturing Sylvester, not least of which was difficult and mountainous terrain.
Due to extremely windy conditions on the ground the aerial search had to be abandoned yesterday. “Further, today the aerial search cannot be conducted due to other pressing commitments for the aircraft.
“Secondly, though the team of rangers sent out to search for the lion are experienced in tracking animals in the bush the situation on the ground continues to pose a real danger of a possible ambush by the animal.”
SANParks said any decision on Sylvester’s future would be “responsible, well thought out and in line with applicable practices, policies and legislation. SANParks is confident that the animal will be captured safely soon.
“We want to also take up this opportunity to thank up the numerous South Africans who have stepped up to the podium offering various solutions and alternatives to resolve the challenges posed by the second escape of the lion.”
The three year old male lion previously escaped from the park in June 2015 through a hole in the fence, after heavy rain in the area. According to reports received by SANParks this time the animal escaped by crawling under an electric fence after heavy rains in the area once again.
“We are aware that some members of the public have been alarmed by reports that the animal will be euthanized, but no decision can be taken until the animal is safely captured,” said the statement.