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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Good News: Reintroduced lions thriving in Karoo National Park

The lions released into Karoo National Park in November 2010 have adapted well to their new home and are in excellent condition. Both Park rangers and visitors have reported sightings of the lions at various areas in the Park over the past year and the lions have definitely brought a new aspect to wildlife viewing in the Great Karoo.

South African National Parks (SANParks) took the decision to introduce lions to the Karoo National Park in a bid to restore the natural functioning of the predator-prey balance in the ecosystem as well as to ensure that all historically-occurring species are once again conserved in the Park.

Eight lions were originally translocated to the Karoo National Park from Addo Elephant National Park. Three of these lions were part of the original group of lions brought into Addo in 2003 from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Kgalagadi lions were chosen for their genetic similarity to the Cape lions which would historically have occurred in the area and for their disease-free status. Lions can suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) which can be transmitted to other species.

Two of the lions have satellite collars which enable rangers and researchers to track their whereabouts for monitoring purposes. Visitors can also enquire about the latest location of lions at reception to enhance chances of spotting lions.

According to rangers and researchers, although the lions originally preyed on a few different species of animals in the Park, they have now begun to concentrate mainly on gemsbok.

Lions seem to frequent the area around the Park's 4x4 trails: Afsaal, Nuweveld and the area around Embizweni cottage. The lionesses and subadult lions also move to the area around the Doornhoek picnic site at times while the male lions sometimes appear around the Lammertjiesleegte and Restcamp areas.

Preceding the introduction of lions, the restcamp area, including the fossil trail, swimming pool and accommodation units as well as the camping ground were fenced with low-level electrified fencing to allow visitors the freedom to walk around this area. Doornhoek picnic site, the Ou Schuur Interpretive Centre and Bulkraal day visitors' site are also fenced. To cater for those who always enjoyed exploring the Karoo on foot, the Park now offers free guided walks (subject to availability) with an armed ranger to day and overnight visitors.

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