Fugitive S.African lion offered death sentence reprieve
South African wildlife officials said Wednesday they would re-assess a decision to euthanize a lion named Sylvester who has escaped twice from a national park and killed livestock.
Trackers are searching for the three-year-old animal after he slipped through a fence at the Karoo National Park in the south of the country at the weekend.
The South Africa National Parks authority (SANParks) had announced it would put down the lion when he was caught — triggering outrage from some animal lovers.
But on Wednesday it said euthanizing Sylvester would only be considered if “the damage caused is massive and may include danger to people.”
“Some members of the public have been alarmed by reports that the animal will be euthanized, but no decision can be taken until the animal is safely captured,” it added.
The lion could instead be moved to another national park or private game reserve, or fencing could be improved to keep him inside the Karoo park.
On his previous escape last year, Sylvester killed 28 sheep, a cow and a kudu antelope during three weeks on the run in which he roamed for hundreds of kilometres.
He was finally captured after being shot by a tranquiliser dart fired from a helicopter in a hunt that cost 800,000 rand ($54,000; 47,300 euros).
Sylvester, who was fitted with a tracking collar after that breakout, escaped again on Sunday under an electric fence after heavy rains.
He has since killed one cow on a private farm, according to reports.
“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,” the park authorities said.
“The lion is currently roaming a remote mountainous area and it is hoped that it will not encounter humans.”
Locals were warned to use extreme caution and not to approach him.
Lions were re-introduced to Karoo National Park, in Western Cape province, in 2010 after an absence of almost 170 years.
The last wild lion in the area was shot in 1842.