'It's becoming a tourist' – Escaped Karoo Park lion takes down 5 sheep near Sutherland

The lion missing from the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West has been tracked close to the town of Sutherland.

“It’s now near Sutherland on the south-west part,” Reynold “Rey T” Thakhuli, SANParks general manager for media, PR and stakeholder relations, told News24.

READ: Missing Karoo lion takes trackers, rangers as far as the Northern Cape

The male lion, estimated to be between two and four years old, went missing on February 15, and ranger and tracker teams have been working shifts to track it down.

Sutherland is situated in the Northern Cape, about 300km from the Karoo National Park.

“The lion is about 42km from Sutherland. This lion is misbehaving; it’s becoming a tourist,” said Thakhuli.

READ: High-tech helicopter, drone to help find missing Karoo lion

‘4 sheep in this latest massacre’

Following the kill of an eland two weeks ago, the lion has now taken down a number of sheep, Thakhuli added.

“After the eland there was one sheep, and now four sheep in this latest massacre. He must have been hungry.”

Bidvest Protea Coin recently assisted the search effort by providing its high-tech helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared cameras.

A four-person team was deployed for three days, but failed to find the predator.

SANParks also has its own helicopter on standby. Thakhuli said that it was too early to report on the cost of the operation.

“We didn’t really quantify it, because it’s three days. The search is obviously costing us money – we can’t say how much at the moment.”

‘These young lions are full and energy’

He expressed hope that the team was close to finding the lion, as tracks became visible after fresh rains.

“They are following new tracks now, because it has rained in the area and there is new spoor,” said Thakhuli.

“When I get updates from the park, I hope every time that this will be the day that we find the lion.”

The last lion to hold the record for the longest disappearance was 4-year-old Sylvester in 2016. He managed to evade capture for two weeks.

“These young lions are full and energy,” said Thakhuli. “It’s really tough for us, but we will find it.”

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