Sylvester’s trek – part one

Young lions play at the Johannesburg Lion Park, Lanseria. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Young lions play at the Johannesburg Lion Park, Lanseria. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Sylvester the lion has been a bad Panthera leo. Brought into the Karoo National Park from Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, the big cat and its fellow lions were supposed to settle down and get on with life.

SANParks spokesperson Fayroush Ludick said the group of lions were originally all from Kgalagadi or offspring of the original group of Kgalagadi lions that were introduced to Addo in 2003.

“They settled very well into the Karoo Park and two cubs were born in November 2012. A number of movements of lions have taken place since, with the current population of lion in Karoo now standing at 11.”

The young Sylvester captured the imagination after he was believed to have been chased away by older lions and escaped from the Park on June 5.

A fence destroyed by a mudslide caused by heavy rain gave the apex predator an easy out and it soon began making a meal of local farmers sheep before it was recaptured and taken home in disgrace. According to reports, Sylvester may have killed about 15 sheep in total. He evaded capture for a period of three weeks.

But why put lions into a park where motorcyclists used to enjoy riding around? “The decision to introduce lions into any SA National Park is mainly for biodiversity reasons,” Ludick said.

“Lions would have occurred on that land historically and it is SANParks policy to reintroduce the wildlife species which would have occurred in an area before hunting or habitat loss forced them to local extinction in earlier centuries. They will then occupy the niche of large predator in the ecosystem, keeping the numbers of larger herbivores in the Park in check.”

Not such great news for the local animal population then but maybe Sylvester’s unintended bad kitty status will be a win for tourism in the area.

“It is a possibility and the lion will be easy to spot now it has been fitted with a radio collar so it’s movements can be tracked,” said SANParks spokesperson Gabrielle Venter.

In part two, Sylvester’s release may be imminent and we look at its home, which not necessarily be the Karoo National Park.


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