Sylvester the lion has become a danger to human beings and the decision to put him down is for the best, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) Wildlife Protection Unit said on Tuesday after the animal escaped from the Karoo National Park for a second time.
SANParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said it appeared the three-year-old male got out on Tuesday by crawling under the electric fence, as rains had eroded the soil.
A 14-man tracker team and a veterinary surgeon had followed Sylvester’s spoor near Beaufort West since the morning and by late Tuesday they had not yet found him.
Read: Sylvester the lion on the loose again
Last year the lion went on the run for three weeks and killed 28 sheep, a cow and a kudu.
He was eventually found wandering about 300km away by rangers and airlifted from the Nuweveld Mountains.
That search ended in his recapture and involved 10 trackers and police dogs.
It cost about R800 000 to find him.
Thakhuli said this time Sylvester had killed a cow on a privately owned farm and was a “damage-causing” animal.
The park would not take Sylvester back, Thakhuli said.
“Unfortunately, this lion has now been identified as a problem animal and will be put down.
“He has identified easy prey and is not only a danger to farm animals, but also humans. He will want to keep getting easy prey.
“When we will put him down has yet to be decided,” Thakhuli said.
Isabel Wentzel, of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Protection Unit, said putting down animals was always a difficult decision, but agreed with SANParks that Sylvester had developed a bad habit of escaping.
“We can understand why the decision was taken.
“Not only is he danger to human beings, but also to himself. He risks being shot by anyone.
“Kudos to the park for giving him a second chance, but once an animal learns how to get out, it is difficult to keep them in,” Wentzel said.
Thakhuli said a private helicopter would be sent from Port Elizabeth to assist the tracker team.
“From the signal emitted by the tracking collar he is wearing, he is about 20km south-west of the park.
Given that he is in very rough mountainous terrain, a chopper from Port Elizabeth will be assisting the search team,” Thakhuli said.
SANParks’ Fayroush Ludick said they realised Sylvester was missing when they checked all satellite tracking collars.[Source: Cape Times and ANA]