High-tech support roped in to find lion missing from Karoo park
The search for a lion missing from the Karoo National Park in the Northern Cape since February 15 has taken a new turn – a security company has offered to help using high-tech tracing technology.
Last week, the search team found spoor 60km from the park's boundary, to the north.
On Friday morning, it picked up the spoor again about 110km northwest of the park.
South African National Parks (SANParks) said Bidvest Protea Coin had on Friday sent a specialised team to help find the animal, which escaped from the reserve near Beaufort West.
Bidvest chief operations officer Waal de Waal said the company had one of only two helicopters in the country fitted with forward-looking thermal-imaging infrared cameras.
These cameras would allow the search team to pick up "heat signatures" on the ground over a radius of 10km when flying at night.
"Although this is not Bidvest’s core business, we are keen to help due to the unique circumstances of the case, our love for animals and conservation, and because our specialised equipment is perfectly suited to the requirements and conditions," De Waal said.
The four-person team from Centurion in Gauteng will meet Karoo National Park manager Nico van der Walt and his group of rangers and trackers to discuss the plan of action.
The Bidvest team will assist in the search for three days.
Van der Walt said from a recent momentary sighting of the animal, they believed the lion to be a two-and-a-half-year-old male.
"It’s believed he managed to escape underneath the park’s electrified fencing after heavy rain in the area washed away sediment along the boundary – and before rangers could get to all the areas to attend to these holes in the ground."
Van der Walt welcomed the assistance from the security company.
“Should the aerial team be able to track the lion down overnight and keep an eye on him while the ground teams are resting, we will have a much better idea of where to continue our search, hopefully from much closer, in the morning,” Van der Walt said.
He said the assistance would give the tracking team an advantage over the lion.
The team also hoped that Thursday’s rain would assist in providing the trackers with fresh spoor to follow.
The team consists of about a dozen rangers and trackers, thanks to the assistance of rangers from Addo Elephant, Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra national parks in the Eastern Cape.
The lion is not believed to be a threat to humans as it is in veld terrain.