SANParks authorities are celebrating the capture of the lion which escaped from the Karoo National Park.
The male lion, which went missing on February 15, was tracked to a farm outside Sutherland and darted on Wednesday night.
"I spoke to the leader of the team this morning, and he is proud of the team," an exhausted, but happy, Reynold "Rey T" Thakhuli, SANParks general manager for Media, PR and Stakeholder Relations, told News24.
The local search team had some assistance from rangers sent in from the Addo Elephant, Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra National Parks in the Eastern Cape.
"We had roughly about 25 people who alternated between day and night shift. At times, guys would be sleeping in the veld - in the rain - but they were resolute in their purpose," said Thakhuli.
It was particularly dangerous for team members because the lion entered very difficult terrain, which meant that the predator had to be tracked on foot.
"They are people who go beyond the call of duty. They are our heroes," Thakhuli said of the team.
Sutherland is in the Northern Cape, about 300km from the Karoo National Park.
Many farmers assisted in the search effort by alerting rangers to the lion's possible whereabouts.
"We also paid special tribute to the farmers who assisted by giving us information on spoor and any kills," said Thakhuli.
The lion, estimated to be between two and four years old, killed an eland soon after leaving the park, as well as four sheep on Tuesday.
Thakhuli praised the efforts of Bidvest Protea Coin which supplied their high-tech helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared cameras, although they failed to find the lion.
"They came from Pretoria, using their own resources."
The lion will be transported to the Karoo National Park in a crate which has arrived from the Addo Elephant Park.
"This morning a crate arrived from Addo. As we speak, it is in transit," said Thakhuli.
He dismissed fears that the lion, having tasted sheep as an easy meal, would find it easy to escape the park again.
"The lion will be collared and that in itself will give us an indication of where he is at any time. Sheep were probably an easy kill, but we don't think it will go out to eat."
According to Alert, lions are more likely to make a kill of a prey animal such as an impala when they do not stalk, but rather chase them upon detection.
The site says that a lion will eat about 7kg of food per day and can run at 60km/h. Males have been known to eat up to 15% of their bodyweight in one meal.
For the rangers, they will get a deserved break, said Thakhuli.
"The guys who have working these long taxing hours they will certainly get a break."Follow @Duncan025
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