Two lions were moved from Marakele National Park to the Karoo National Park on 1 October 2015 as part of its innovative approach to managing lions in small parks.
The two joined Karoo’s infamous lion; dubbed by the media as “Sylvester” who escaped from the park for 24 days, in the holding boma he’s been kept in since his recapture on 29 June 2015. He had dozens of trackers and six dogs searching for him – on foot, in vehicles and from the air, killing 28 sheep, a Nguni cow and a kudu along his walkabout of nearly 400km’s.
The two from Marakele, one male and one female, are both four years old. They were flown in on a SANParks aircraft to Beaufort West, near Karoo National Park. Sylvester is three years old. The hope is that they’ll bond and form their own pride before their release into the park.
The park’s senior section ranger Riaan Nel said that he had to remove the female as the two males did not bond well in her presence. “The males now lie down together and roar together. We are just hoping that they will start eating together before their possible release.”
The male will also receive a collar to make tracking easier once leave the boma.
According to Dr Sam Ferreira, Large Mammal Ecologist at SANParks, “Lions living in small parks often impact prey so badly that the numbers of species that they eat decline over time. This is because small parks reduce the reason for lions to live in groups. Small parks have no unknown roaming males. Lionesses therefore do not have to band together to defend their cubs against unfamiliar males trying to take over the pride from other males.”
He further said, “Small parks also seldom have more than one pride. Lionesses therefore also do not have to worry about another pride that tries to take over the territory that they live in. Lionesses can therefore walk on their own more often. Instead of one pride catching one prey item a night, several lionesses may catch their own food and predation pressure on prey species increase.”
Several protected areas including Marakele National Park and Karoo National Park are isolated from each other and usually have effective fences. Natural movements are thus restricted. As part of an integrated approach, SANParks manages lions by mimicking the arrival of new lions in an area.
In May 2014, two lions were trans-located from Pilanesberg Nature Reserve in the North West Province to Marakele National Park to form new coalitions and to diversify the gene pool for lions in the park. “We find this to be best practice management action available to SANParks and it has been working well for us,” said Johan Taljaard, Park Manager Marakele National Park.
Marakele National Park currently has 24 resident lions including cubs. This move will enhance the gene pool of the Karoo National Park lion population which currently stands at 11 lions.
Words Courtesy of SANParks Times
Photography Harry Lewis