UPDATE: Helicopter tracking 3 of five escaped Kruger lions

2017-05-09 13:00 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - SANParks authorities have confirmed that “three of the five lions have been spotted between the sugar cane area of Komatipoort”, about 10 km from Kruger National Park.

Reynold Thakhuli, General Manager at SANParks told Traveller24 that the three lions have been spotted and that a vet is set to go up in a helicopter to dart them.

“We aim to catch all five during the day before it gets dark,” says Thakhuli, adding that the aim is for no lives to be at risk.

SEE: ALERT: Hunt continues for 5 escaped Kruger lions – SANParks

Thakhuli confirmed that one cow in Komatipoort has been killed by the escaped lions – there have been no other reported incidents of lion attacks in the area.

While other media have reported that four of the five lions have been found, Thakhuli says that he cannot confirm that.

ALSO SEE: 5 lions escape from Kruger

A SANParks tweet has indicated that the lions have in fact split up.

In a strange hat-tip to another famous five, pop band One Direction - these lions appear to have gone in different directions, with SANParks stating, "It is believed the lions are still in the area & might have split up at the moment, due to spectator value & people wanting to take pictures.

The operation is being led by Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority, together with SANParks and police authorities.

SA's most famous escaped lion

Many will recall a similar story which took place in the Karoo National park in June 2015, when Sylvester the lion, as he was aptly named, managed to escape not once but twice. His first escape had been attributed to a hole being dug beneath one of the park's fences.

While SANParks has not been able to confirm how these five lions managed to escaped, William Mabasa, acting head of communications at South African National Parks (SANparks), told Traveller24 “Any animal can escape if there’s an opening [in the fence] or they can dig a hole [to escape],” adds Mabasa.

After Sylvester's capture he was fitted with a combination satellite/VHF collar to find his location should he manage to get out again.  This collar then alerted authorities on 28 March 2016 that the lion had once again left the park’s boundary, and played a big role in tracking him and returning him back to the Park much quicker – three days later on 31 March, 2016.

Sylvester has since been moved to Addo where two lionesses joined him. 

SEE: WATCH: Happy endings for Sylvester and his lionesses in Addo

SANparks is still on the look-out for the other two big cats.

“We are searching in areas where people have reported seeing them – around the Komatipoort, about 10 km away from Kruger National Park,” says Mabasa.

“If you spot the lions call 013 735 4000 or phone the nearest police station,” he advises. Farmers are also being advised to keep their livestock out of harm's way, until the lions have all been captured.

Once they are caught, Mabasa says that the lions will be returned to the park and additional patrolling will take place around fences and areas where animals can possibly escape from the park.

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