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Four of the 5 lions that escaped from the Kruger National Park have been found near the Lebombo border post with Mozambique.
Rangers located and darted the lions after finding the remains of cattle that had been eaten by them lions on a farm in the area.
Four lions out of the Kruger Five have now been darted after another chopper was sent in by SANParks before twilight sets in.
Lions numbers three and four have been safely darted and captured by the rangers of SANParks and the team of the MTPA and sent off to an area quite far beyond Crocodile Bridge after SANParks sent in another chopper to make sure that the dark doesn’t catch them unawares.
Mr Ike Phaahla said to Lowvelder just before 17:00 that a team will remain looking for the last escapee in the enclosure on a farm 60 kilometres from the Swaziland border.
“Our team of SANParks rangers were relentless in ensuring the safety of the communities and the lions in their search. The team of the MTPA was leading the operation with determination and we had the help of the Traffic Department of Mpumalanga as well as the fulltime help of members of SAPS,” said Phaahla.
He also thanked the farmers for opening their farms to enable the teams to search for the escapees.
Another lion has been darted and taken back on a Cruiser to be released in the Crocodile Bridge area.
This has been confirmed by Mr Louw Steyn of the MTPA. “Everything went well. We got hold of him right in the middle of the enclosure for the cattle and could ensure that he get a safe exit from the camp to the vehicle,” said Steyn to Lowvelder.
Mr. Ike Phaahla of SANParks said to Lowvelder that the unfortunate aspect is that there is only an hour of light left for the chopper to fly to ge thold of the three other escapees.
He explained that it is thought that the five subadult males were driven out of their pride but no information as yet is available about the details.
EARLIER THIS AFTERNOON: KOMATIPOORT – Five lions that escaped from the Kruger National Park have been tracked down 60 kilometres from the Mananga border from Swaziland by the SANParks’ chopper pilot just before midday today.
One has been darted and is safely on a Cruiser and set to be taken back to the KNP in the Crocodile Bridge area.
The chopper is at present without fuel and refuelling to soon take to the air again.
A spokesman of the MTPA said to Lowvelder that it is an incredible difficult terrain to find the lions and to manoeuvre the chopper.
Mr. Ike Phaahla, SANParks media specialist, said to Lowvelder that four of the lions were still elusive but that they have been spotted in an enclosure of eight hectares where a farmer of Komatipoort keeps his cattle. They are not close to the sugar cane farms.
A carcass of a cow was found this morning. The lions were on this carcass and were spotted by officials of the MTPA. Cars however started chasing around in the bush very early this morning with spectators who wanted to see what was happening and a golden opportunity was missed by the officials to capture the lions.
An eyewitness who did not want to be named called it “an absolute circus.”
Cars in the region of where the chopper is looking for the escaped lions.
SANParks is preparing to recapture the other lions. Phaahla said that the animals’ reaction to sounds of the cars and people might have driven them into hiding. He requested drivers and passengers to stay in their cars on the N4.
Lt Col Charles Sithabathaba of the SANDF on the border said that he has advised his officers and troops patrolling the border that the lions are in their area. The army has a base at Macadamia which is on the road to Mananga.
Mr Rey Thakuli, general manager: Media, Events and Stakeholders at SANParks urged people to refrain from taking photographs of “these animals as they are dangerous predators.”
He said investigations are underway to determine how the lions managed to leave the park. The five sub adult male lions are believed to have been chased out by a dominant pride.
SANParks would like to reiterate the police call for residents to be extra vigilant and report any sighting of these dangerous predators to the authorities on 080010111, 0768019679 or 013 735 0197.