The lion who escaped from the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West last month spent a night behind bars.
The Citizen reported on Wednesday night that the lion had finally been found and captured after being darted in the Northern Cape.
He was recaptured near Sutherland. A video of the not-too-pleased-looking lion in his cell has now surfaced on Twitter.
A representative of SANParks told SABC: “He is in a police holding cell in Sutherland until we can get a crate there to transport him back to the park.”
— Sphiwe Hobasi (@MrCow_man) March 14, 2019
The police stock theft unit from Beaufort West had been assisting in the search for the lion since the end of February.
He had undertaken a rather impressive journey of more than 260km (as the car drives) from his starting location on February 15.
The lion would be moved to the Karoo park after he has been assessed by vets.
The animal that escaped from the boundaries of the Karoo National Park in mid-February was darted on Wednesday at 6pm.
“He looks very healthy and is currently is transit back to the Karoo National Park,” said park manager Nico van der Walt.
He said this had been one of the most taxing experiences for the team involved in the recapturing operation, “but their dedication day and night, sleeping out in the veld, sometimes in the rain with wind, is to be commended”.
SANParks chief executive officer, Fundisile Mketeni, said SANParks understood the conditions the tracking team were working under in an effort to recapture the escaped lion, describing it as very difficult.
“On behalf of all SANParks staff I wish to extend our gratitude for their hard work and efforts put into the recapture of this animal,” Mketeni said.
Mketeni also thanked the farming community in the Northern and Western Cape for their assistance in supplying information on identified tracks and said the support received from the Pretoria-based Bidvest Protea Coin security during the search was highly appreciated.
“Everyone who assisted without being requested to do so has shown appreciation for South Africa’s natural heritage and for this we commend them,” Mketeni said.
According to Van der Walt, trackers picked up a new track on Wednesday afternoon and followed it until the lion stormed out of the bush.
“A SANParks helicopter was dispatched and the animal was successfully darted in the mountains. Thankfully Sutherland SAPS provided a holding cell for the lion until the arrival of a crate from the Addo Elephant National Park this morning,” Van der Walt said.
Earlier there were other reports that the hungry lion had been preying on farmers’ sheep and had even taken down an eland.
The lion reportedly now also has the record for achieving the longest lion escape among its King of Beasts brethren in South African history, beating the previous holder Sylvester’s feat of being on the lam for two weeks, according to News24.
Its spoor was spotted at the end of February on the farm Haw & Miszewski Taaiboschfontein, 70km from Beaufort West, said one of the owners two weeks ago. At that time, trackers were confident they were about to find him, but he clearly had other plans, with one person interviewed remarking that he was becoming “a tourist”.
Park rangers in choppers were deployed to try to dart and catch the estimated two-and-a-half-year-old male. The continued efforts of the aircraft have reportedly racked up a rather large bill.
#EscapedLion The lion escaped by digging its way out underneath a fence after heavy rain in the Karoo three weeks ago
— Sphiwe Hobasi (@MrCow_man) March 12, 2019
A lion named Sylvester made headlines in 2015 for escaping in similar fashion, managing the same feat again in 2016. The lion who spent last night in a holding cell has, however, broken Sylvester’s record for the amount of time he spent running loose.
Despite this, his name is not yet known to the South African public.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting, ANA)