Its much anticipated release from “protective custody” in a solar powered electrified 100m by 100m enclosure has been put on hold for the immediate future.
“It has not settled to the point where park management is happy about making the decision to release it back into the park. So management is going to keep him for another week or two,” said SANParks spokesperson Fayroush Ludick.
Indeed the lion proved skittish at best when the open game viewing vehicle (OSV) drove up to the isolated boma, and bolted to the furthest corner and promptly lay down behind tall grass, trusting photographers attempts for a picture of the Lion known as Sylvester, or Spook (ghost).
“It is still very aggressive, it is mock charging when he sees people, especially on foot, and when it sees an OSV it scares the lion off. There’s a level of aggression we’re not comfortable with and we want it to settle a bit more before it is either released into this park or another one,” said Ludick.
Park ranger Melissa du Toit had only just started working at the Karoo National Park when the three-year-old lion escaped due to a fence which had been broken due to a mudslide.
“The public called it Sylvester, we called it Spook because we would track it for hours then the tracks would simply vanish,” said Du Toit, who was involved in the first week of the search.
Even the near mythical tracking abilities of Khomani San trackers employed to look after the local population of black rhino were put the test as the lion evaded capture for nearly a month.
Sylvester led the search party on a merry chase of more than 300 km – 150 km at his furthest point – over the Nuweveld Mountains and at one stage had crossed over from the Western Cape into the Northern Cape. It was while the lion was returning to the park he was finally caught, darted, and returned to the Karoo National Park.
For now, it’s a cushy life for the wanderer which is fed every two to three days with ostrich, zebra, and other antelope.
Nor is the lion lonely.
Du Toit noted rangers had seen Sylvester’s sister lying outside the boma when they had visited Sylvester earlier this week. Sylvester had seemed unperturbed by the visit and was lying peacefully in the middle of the boma at the time.
This will remain his home for the next two weeks at least.