South Africa’s most famous lion, Sylvester, has spent the past few weeks reigning over his new 15 000ha kingdom at Addo Elephant National Park’s Kuzuko contractual area.
Sylvester shot to fame when he escaped from Karoo National Park in 2015 and again in 2016. He was then moved to Addo, where he has been slowly introduced into his new environment.
At the end of last year, Sylvester and his coalition partner, a younger male, were finally joined by two females after being moved into a larger 200-hectare enclosure in Kuzuko. This was the first time the male lions came into contact with the females without a fence between them. At first, Sylvester chased the females away, but the lions have since been seen together on a number of occasions. The four were moved from the confines of this enclosure in January.
Sylvester has manifested himself as the dominant male of his new pride, according to conservation manager at Addo, John Adendorff. “He is already showing signs of being the pride leader, such as chasing the females off their kill,” he says.
The lions were let out after bonding sufficiently enough to start a coalition in Kuzuko. “They were at the point where they showed no aggression towards each other,” says Adendorff. “A hierarchy was also clearly visible.”
Park management have kept a close eye on the four lions, paying particular attention to their social interaction.
Before releasing the females into the area, a SANParks vet fitted one of the females with a tracking collar. As they are never far apart, one collar will provide the location of both at any given time. “On their first night out they caught a kudu and the very next morning a red hartebeest, confirming that they can successfully fend for themselves in the wild,” says Adendorff.
Sylvester, too, has proven that he hasn’t forgotten how to hunt, having caught an adult black wildebeest two days after being let out into Kuzuko.
“Now that it appears he finally has a place where he belongs and has bonded so closely with the younger male, we are confident that Sylvester will have no need to stray again,” says Adendorff. “His satellite tracking collar location is monitored regularly and easily provides us with an accurate assessment of where the two are.”