South African lion Sylvester offered last-minute reprieve
An escaped South African lion named Sylvester appears to have been granted a last-minute reprieve from being euthanised by rangers after several wildlife charities offered to provide him with a new and more secure home.The wild predator went on the run from the country’s Karoo National Park early on Tuesday after heavy rain washed away soil and created a hole under an electric fence.
A South African National Parks spokesman said that the three-year-old male lion had now run away twice and posed a threat to human life that could not be allowed.“We will not take him back to the park. Unfortunately this lion has now been identified as a problem animal and will be euthanised,” Reynold Thakhuli said. “From the signal emitted by the tracking collar he is wearing he is about 20 kilometres southwest of the park in very rough mountainous terrain.”The suggestion that the lion, christened Sylvester by locals, should be put down was however met with considerable public outrage.
Some honorary SANParks rangers threatened to quit their voluntary roles, and other posters on the authority’s Facebook page threatened to boycott its parks.Some posters suggested that Sylvester had left the park because he was being victimised by two other lions.An Avaaz petition calling for the lion to be spared had by Wednesdaylunchtime reached almost 2,500 signatures.John Varty, a South Africa conservationist and filmmaker, came forward to offer Sylvester a home at his tiger sanctuary near the Karoo, along with at least two other big cat conservancies.
Mr Varty said he would build a 1,000-hectare sanctuary especially for him and introduce female lions to Sylvester’s territory. “I will take him and give him a home. Tread lightly on the Earth,” he said.On Wednesday afternoon, SANParks said its spokesman had spoken “prematurely” and no decision had yet been taken on Sylvester’s fate.”We are aware that some members of the public have been alarmed by reports that the animal will be euthanised, but no decision can be taken until the animal is safely captured,” the authority said in a statement.The lion could be returned to the Karoo or sent to another state park or private conservancy, it added, but warned that if he tried to attack anyone, he would be killed.
“We are dealing with a dangerous and ever changing situation and as such decisions related to the capture of the lion will be informed by the situation at the moment of capture,” it said.“Though the team of rangers sent out to search for the lion are experienced in tracking animals in the bush the situation on the ground continues to pose a real danger of a possible ambush by the animal.”