The South African National Parks (SANParks) has stated that a pride of 14 lions reportedly spotted near a mining area outside Phalaborwa does not belong to the Kruger National Park.
SANParks spokesperson Isaac Phaahla said that the widely reported pride of lions seen recently was not a known pride from Kruger or the adjacent private nature reserves.
"It has been reported that this pride has been residing for more than a year within the Foskor, Phalaborwa Mining Company and direct adjacent areas, moving along the Selati River system. This area is outside, but adjacent to Kruger and also contains elephant, buffalo and other wildlife.
"The pride may have established itself in this area due to the current availability of prey and a lack of competition from other prides. The lion population within Greater Kruger is very healthy, growing, and the suitable habitats occupied.
"It would therefore be unwise to relocate a lion pride in the territory of an existing pride. The disease status of animals is also a consideration when looking at possible release areas," he said.
Kruger’s general manager of conservation, Dr Marisa Coetzee, said in a meeting between various parties that it was agreed that a capture operation, which will be coordinated by Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), would be carried out as per the approved protocols.
LEDET is the responsible authority on this matter.
"The plan is to capture the pride and move them to a suitable area outside of Kruger and private reserves, where they will be closely monitored by LEDET," said Coetzee.
News24 earlier reported that LEDET had urged people in the area not to panic.
Spokesperson Zaid Kalla said it had dispatched two teams of rangers to the area where the lions were spotted, and they have found the carnivores.
"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.