SANParks: Killer lions not ours

2014-01-27 05:30

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Mbombela - The South African National Parks (SANParks) has denied that stray lions which have killed scores of livestock in the Beitbridge area of Zimbabwe may have come from the Kruger National Park.

Media in Limpopo reported in January that lions, suspected to have escaped from the Kruger, were terrorising villages around the small border town, and have killed 12 cattle and 10 donkeys over the past four months.

“The lions could not have escaped from the Kruger, simply because it is too far for the animals to travel. The villages mentioned are almost 120km from the nearest gate, which is Pafuri,” said SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla, responding to the reports.

The Limpopo Mirror reported on 10 January that stray lions in Tshikwalakwala village near Beitbridge had become perennial livestock killers.

Over the past five years the village has been plagued by lion prides, and numerous Zimbabwean media sources have also singled out the Kruger as the park from which the problem animals escaped.

In July 2013, Zoutnet reported that lions which "allegedly strayed from the Kruger National Park", had killed 19 cattle in Tshikwalakwala in less than a month.

In a September 2011 article titled, Stray Lions from Kruger Park in SA causing havoc in Beitbridge, Bulawayo said that lions had killed livestock in Beitbridge and in 2009, The Zimbabwean newspaper reported that a pride of stray lions from the KNP had “once again descended on Beitbridge”.

Phaahla said that there were numerous hunting outfits and game farms in the region from which the lions could have escaped.

“There are hunting outfits between the Kruger and the affected villages and a lot of game farms with lions in the region. Zimbabwe also has a lot of hunting outfits that have lions, so the lions could have come from anywhere,” said Phaahla.

He added that the park's technical team have a regular fence maintenance and monitoring programme and work closely with game rangers and hospitality managers to prevent animals from straying into communities around Kruger.

“Once an animal strays into land inhabited by humans, there are systems in place to alert our rangers. It is important to note that once an animal leaves the sanctuary of the Kruger, it becomes the province’s responsibility,” Phaahla said.

In March 2002, a lion which had escaped from Kruger killed a Mozambican immigrant close to the Limpopo town of Phalaborwa.

Skukuza police spokesperson Warrant Officer Oubaas Coetzer said that strict control measures meant that lion escapes were extremely rare.

“The fences are well patrolled and I have never heard of whole prides escaping, normally it is just one individual,” said Coetzer.

Beitbridge councillor Enoch Ndou was quoted in The Limpopo Mirror saying that authorities need to address the problem in Tshikwalakwala.

“The animals are now posing a threat to children travelling to school. We are appealing to the relevant authorities to address this problem before villagers lose their lives,” he said.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  animals

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