Escaped lion instils fear in Limpopo
Thohoyandou - A huge male lion is still on the loose around Thohoyandou, Limpopo.
Frank Muthelo, senior inspector for wildlife trade and regulations at the Vhembe district municipality, said the lion was one of three lions, including two males and one female, that escaped either from the Makuye Nature Reserve or the Kruger National Park on Saturday.
He said game rangers managed to shoot and kill two of the animals on Monday afternoon in Ngezimane village near Thohoyandou. The lions had already killed three cows.
“On Tuesday morning we spotted tracks of the remaining male in Matatani village between Musina and Thohoyandou. Community members in that area are urged to immediately call authorities if they spot the lion, they must not try to be heroes because this animal is probably hungry and dangerous,” said Muthelo on Wednesday.
Muthelo said the police and experienced game rangers started looking for the lions on Saturday.
Voters scared off
“The game rangers and the police are still following tracks of the missing lion in the Matatani village. We will definitely kill him when we find him because we have the responsibility to protect human lives and livestock,” he said.
He said an investigation had been launched to determine how the lions escaped.
“We have contacted both the Makuye Nature Reserve and the Kruger to alert them about the lions, but none confirmed whether they belonged to them or not,” Muthelo said.
Kruger spokesperson William Mabasa said Kruger officials had only heard about the lions on radio.
“Our rangers have not reported any escaped lions. We only heard about these lions on the radio and we are not sure if they are ours or not, maybe they are from Makuye Nature Reserve,” said Mabasa.
Meanwhile, provincial chief electoral officer for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Nkaro Matete told journalists that some villagers from around Musina and Thohoyandou were too afraid to register for the May 18 local government elections after reports about the roaming lions.
“We received reports from our officials that people were scared off from several voting stations because of fear of the lions,” said Matete during a press conference in Polokwane on Monday.
Spokesperson for the Mutale local municipality in Thohoyandou Phiathu Rabura said the reports of the missing lion had instilled fear within local communities.
“The fears are reminiscent of the fear caused by Panjo the famous tiger that went missing in Mpumalanga last year,” said Rabura.
Panjo, a 17-month old Bengal tiger at the time, caused panic in Mpumalanga in July last year when he escaped from the back of his owner’s bakkie between Groblersdal and Delmas.
The tiger lived on its owner Goosey Fernandes's Jugomaro Game Farm near Groblersdal in Limpopo, but was on his way to Gauteng via Mpumalanga for a visit to a vet.
Some parents even kept their children out of school until the tiger was captured.
Panjo was finally found on the farm Swartkoppies in Verena by a tracking dog called Zingela, two days after he went missing. Zingela was used to track wounded animals in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The tiger's spoor had first been picked up by tracker Johnson Mhlanga from Singita Lodge in Mpumalanga.