SANParks: Sylvester the lion doesn't have to die

South Africans have reacted with outrage to a Tuesday statement that SANParks will euthanize the Kruger-escaped Sylvester the Lion once he is recaptured. (Reuters)

South Africans have reacted with outrage to a Tuesday statement that SANParks will euthanize the Kruger-escaped Sylvester the Lion once he is recaptured. (Reuters)

South African Nation Parks (SANParks) is reconsidering an earlier decision to euthanise Sylvester, the missing Karoo lion, upon recapture.

A spokesperson for the conservation authority on Tuesday said it would put down the three-year-old male as he had become a “problem animal”, but in a statement on Wednesday the organisation said euthanising Sylvester was only one of several options being mulled. It added that there had been a public outcry over plans to put the lion down.

“A statement was released prematurely on Tuesday, March 29 2016, and SANParks apologises to the public for the incorrect statement, which did not accurately reflect the organisation’s position,” it said.

“However, SANParks would like to make it known to the public that we are dealing with a dangerous and ever changing situation and, as such, decisions related to the capture of the lion will be informed by the situation at the moment of capture. SANParks wishes to reiterate that the organisation is considering a number of measures to deal with the lion once it is captured, in line with the Norms and Standards for the Management of Damage-Causing Animals.”

‘Damage-causing animal’
“Unfortunately due to the history of this lion it is now considered a damage-causing animal.”

Sylvester killed 30 animals – 28 sheep, a cow and a kudu – last year and sparked a costly three-week search when he escaped from the Karoo National Park in June.
It appeared that this time he got out by crawling under the electric fence. On Tuesday, SANParks sent a 14-man tracking team after the lion after he escaped again, presumably by crawling under an electric fence, and headed for the mountains near Beaufort West.

SANParks spokesperson Rey Thakhuli said Sylvester had killed a cow on a private farm since escaping this time around, and a helicopter had been called in to help with the search. However, the aerial search had to called off later in the day because of windy conditions.

On Wednesday, the private helicopter that was being used, was needed elsewhere.

The options being considered were bringing the lion back to the Karoo park and improving the perimeter fence surrounding it, relocating him to another national park, donating him to a state-owned or private conservation body or euthanising him if the damage caused this time “is massive and may include danger to people and/or loss of human life, and massive loss of assets”.

“Specifically the loss of human life poses an even greater danger as the animal may lose fear for humans and see them as easy prey,” it added.

R800 000 and counting
Sylvester was fitted with an electronic tracking collar after his first escape and two other lions were brought to the park to help integrate him. Last year’s capture operation cost SANParks R800 000.

SANParks urged people not to approach the lion if they spotted him.

“The lion is currently roaming a remote mountainous area and it is hoped that it will not encounter humans. SANParks acknowledges that where there is livestock, which it is most likely to prey on, there is a strong possibility that there may be humans in the vicinity. Thus, the people in the local area are asked to exercise extreme caution. SANParks further reiterates that members of the public should not approach the animal.

“SANParks thanks all South Africans for their messages of concern and advice regarding the escaped animal,” it added. – African News Agency (ANA)

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