via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Stray lions wreak havoc in Beitbridge 21 July 2014 by Mashudu Netsianda
A PRIDE of lions suspected to have strayed from South Africa’s Kruger National Park is terrorising Tshikwalakwala villagers where the big cats have already killed several donkeys and cattle.
Villagers said there were fears that the lions could soon target people. Enock Ndou, the local ward councillor, said: “We have a serious problem of stray lions from Kruger National Park which are roaming Tshikwalakwala and surrounding areas.
“They are killing livestock and villagers are now living in fear of being attacked by the lions.
“A few weeks ago, the lions killed five donkeys while seven cattle were also killed in the last few months. The killing of livestock started last October,” he said.
Ndou said although there were no reports of human deaths, the animals were now a threat to children, particularly those who walk long distances to school.
“We’re appealing to Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to attend to this problem which has become perennial before villagers lose their lives,” he said.
Ndou said that a local safari operator, Three Ways Safaris, contracted by the Beitbridge Rural District Council to hunt down and capture the lions, was not up to the job.
“We’ve been trying to engage the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to assist us since the safari operator is failing to address the challenge and so far we have not been getting any positive results,” said Ndou.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Caroline Washaya Moyo said she was not aware of the problem but promised to look into the issue.
Beitbridge is a drought-prone district and local farmers rely on cattle ranching as their major economic activity.
Oubaas Coetzer, communication officer for Kruger National Park’s police unit, said that strict control measures meant that lion escapes were extremely rare.
“Our fences are well patrolled and I have never heard of whole prides escaping, normally it is just one lion,” said Coetzer.
South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesman Ike Phaahla denied that the deadly wild cats were from Kruger National Park.
“The lions could not have escaped from the Kruger National Park, simply because it is too far for the animals to travel. The affected villages are almost 120 kilometres from the nearest gate, which is Pafuri,” he said.
“Once an animal strays into land inhabited by humans, there are systems in place to alert our rangers. It is important to note that once an animal leaves the sanctuary of the park, it becomes our responsibility to track it down.
“We have a technical team that does regular fence maintenance and monitoring programme to prevent animals from straying into communities around Kruger.”
Phaahla said that there were numerous hunting outfits and game farms in the region from which the lions could have escaped.
“There are hunting outfits between the Kruger National Park and the affected villages and a lot of game farms with lions in the region.
“Zimbabwe also has a lot of hunting outfits that have lions, so the lions could have come from anywhere,” said Phaahla.