Three lions that strayed from the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Friday were captured on Monday and returned to the park.
They were darted from a helicopter near the Sabie Sand Nature Reserve.
“We received alerts from community members [around the Mkhuhlu area] of their sighting on Saturday around 10pm. They moved out through the Paul Kruger gate towards Elephant Point and were seen in the farm area‚” said SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla‚ adding that a search was launched.
Veterinarian Dr Lufuno Netshitavhadulu recounted the capture.
“It took us the whole day. We got there around 11am in the morning. We had community members who helped track them. In the afternoon some of the guys followed the spoor and found the lions deep in the bush. We decided to call in the helicopter‚ to dart them from the helicopter‚” he said.
“It wasn’t easy because the bush is thick and they scattered in different directions. We darted the first one and the guys on the ground located it.
“We went for the second and it was a struggle. You can miss an elephant in bush like that‚ imagine a lion. It was getting late. We got the second one — they were lying together‚ the last two. It was a perfect dart and we moved on to the third one.
“They were [found] around steenboks. We don’t think they killed livestock‚ we would’ve got a complaint by now. They didn’t look like they were compromised but they looked full.”
They had to check the lions for microchips. The lions were unknown and did not belonging to a private game reserve so they were taken to the Kruger.
“We left the place of release around 10pm and they were all up. We put a tracking device on one of them so we can intercept them next time [they escape]‚” said Netshitavhadulu.
Meanwhile‚ as the holidays approach‚ SANParks announced last week it is increasing surveillance at entry gates to the Kruger park to help prevent crime.
Acting KNP MD Danny Govender said there will also be increased spot searches of vehicles inside the park to check for‚ among other things‚ contraband‚ identity verification and booking receipts. Other technologies being implemented include number-plate recognition‚ remote vehicle monitoring‚ radar surveillance and night flying with specialised infrared cameras.
Source: ARENA Holdings.