Curiosity got to these cats: ‘Impossible’ to keep Kruger’s lions fenced in - Times LIVE
   
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Mon May 29 13:30:38 SAST 2017

Curiosity got to these cats: ‘Impossible’ to keep Kruger’s lions fenced in

Shenaaz Jamal | 2017-05-18 07:14:20.0

Image by: iStock

How did the five lions that terrified Mpumulanga locals manage to escape from the Kruger National Park?

Quite easily, it seems. Curiosity probably got the better of them and they simply. left.

SANParks' acting managing executive for conservation services, Danie Pienaar, said yesterday the lions probably escaped via the Crocodile and Komati rivers. They had not been evicted by another pride, he told media at the SANParks headquarters in Pretoria.

"The lions just left the park. Rangers said the way they just lay next to the N4 indicated they are used to people and cars," he said.

The Kruger National Park is the largest park in the country and home to 1,800 lions. Pienaar said the park's fences could not be made impenetrable and 24-hour surveillance was simply not possible.

"Fences are broken by large animals and trying to keep a lion in with a fence is difficult because they get through the smallest of holes," said Pienaar.

He added it was not uncommon for animals to leave the park. Habitual offenders were put down. The recaptured lions were not found to be habitual offenders and were put back.

"The danger the lions pose to the public depends on the situation but predators don't go around hunting people. When they see people during the day they run away," said Pienaar.

He urged the public to notify authorities and not to confront animals they encounter outside the boundaries of the park.

"When people try to chase the animal, or run away from it, a dangerous situation develops," he said.

The park has a compensation policy that pays out in the event that an animal from the park causes damage to private property. The lions reportedly attacked cattle during their outing.

"We have friendly relations with our neighbouring communities and where they are able to prove damage by an animal we pay out," said Pienaar.

He said there were about 20 incidents a year and about R400,000 is paid out annually.

Residents were particularly nervous about the big cats on the loose. Police warned motorists not to stop at the side of the road under any circumstances - even to answer the call of nature - until the creatures were recaptured.

Four of the lions were recaptured and a search for the fifth was called off. Pienaar said the fifth lion could have walked back into the park and may have been in touch with its pride.

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