Sylvester‚ the lion that twice went walkabout from the Karoo National Park‚ has settled down in his new home and started a family.
After mating with Angel‚ one of two lionesses at Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape‚ Sylvester is the father of two cubs‚ it was announced on Thursday.
The 12-week-old youngsters were seen by reserve staff for the first time on Monday‚ and photographs show them staying close to Angel. She is one of two orphaned sisters at Kuzuko.
Sylvester was given a home on the 15‚000ha Kuzuko reserve — a concession area of Addo Elephant National Park — in May 2016 after twice escaping from the Karoo park.
During his first escape‚ in June 2015‚ he evaded capture for three weeks and wandered more than 370km.
After his capture‚ he was fitted with a satellite tracking collar‚ which alerted rangers that he had left the park again in March 2016. He was recaptured three days later and moved to Kuzuko‚ where he and a younger male‚ Fielies‚ were finally given the run of the reserve in January 2017.
“On their first night out they caught a kudu and the very next morning a red hartebeest‚ confirmation that they can successfully fend for themselves in the wild‚” Addo conservation manager John Adendorff said at the time.
“Now that it appears he finally has a place where he belongs‚ without threat‚ and the fact that he has bonded so closely with the younger male‚ we are confident that Sylvester will have no need to ever stray again.”
Angel and another lioness were released in Kuzuko at the same time‚ and reserve manager Gerhard de Lange said on Thursday the four lions had formed a close bond.
Sylvester and Angel were photographed mating in March‚ and De Lange said: “Although both lionesses were on contraception we started to suspect that Angel had given birth between June 15 and 20.
“She showed all the signs of having cubs suckling her‚ but as lionesses keep their cubs hidden for quite a period when they are very young‚ we hadn’t been able to spot them.
“On Monday our suspicions were confirmed as Angel and her two cubs started moving around together and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them.”
Sylvester had visited Angel and his cubs a few times. “We are sure [he and Fielies] will provide them with the protection they need‚” said De Lange.
“We can also confirm that the two little cubs have adopted their father’s good looks and are fit and healthy.”
De Lange said Sylvester fled the Karoo park because he was intimidated by two older male lions. “He never had a pack. He was in danger‚ and that’s why he had to flee. He had to escape or be killed.”
He hailed the birth of the cubs as “an incredible story”‚ adding that after almost being euthanased during his escapes Sylvester was “living proof that conservation‚ when done right‚ is always the preferred option”.