'Don't panic' - Limpopo govt says 14 escaped lions have been spotted, will be darted

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(iStock)
(iStock)

"Don't panic."

That is the message from the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, after around 14 lions escaped from the Kruger National Park in the Phalaborwa area.

Speaking to News24, spokesperson Zaid Kalla said the department had become aware of the escape on Thursday.

"We immediately sent out two teams of rangers to where the lions had been spotted and they managed to find the animals."

The lions are currently contained in the area and arrangements are being made to have them darted and transported back to the park.

"We are still strategising on how we're going to sedate the lions and transport them to the Kruger National Park," Kalla said. 

READ: 14 lions escape from Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa residents warned

"We need to keep in mind that we are in Limpopo, which is home to 76% of the Kruger National Park, which covers a huge area. Therefore, you will find large wild animals - such as elephants, which use the fence of the Kruger or other wildlife facilities to scratch themselves - often leaving gaps or pushing them down completely. 

Rangers monitoring situation

"So what often happens is that animals who have consumed the vegetation in a particular area use these damaged fences to venture outside. 

"In the case of the lions, especially considering how territorial they are, they will typically 'escape' through the fence, but they are not aware that they are escaping.

"Our rangers are now monitoring the situation and we are in a position to inform members of the public on the whereabouts of these lions. We are trying to ensure that they remain where they are."

Kalla asked that people driving in that area alert the department should they encounter any wild animals. 

"But don't step out of your vehicles," Kalla warned. "As provincial government, the lives of our citizens always comes first. Should we feel that the lives of our citizens are threatened, we will save the lives of our citizens, even if it is at the expense of our wildlife." 

According to Kalla, the department and other stakeholders were working on the logistics around sedating and transporting the lions. 

"We will ensure that the public is updated on any progress," Kalla said. 

In an earlier statement, the department said: "A meeting held between LEDET, The Kruger National Park and Greater Balule concluded that the lions are to be captured and released back at Kruger National Park. Employees at Foskor Mine and members of the public are hereby advised to be alert at all times."

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