The animal‚ which has been tracked by police and wildlife experts‚ has been on the run for the past six weeks.
Wildlife experts now hope to have him captured and sent to a Free State lion sanctuary within the next 24-hours.Drew Abrahamson‚ of the Captured in Africa Foundation‚ said she was alerted to the lion by the Green Scorpions last month.
“Together with specialised animal trackers from Pit-Track Canine Conservation we immediately began to look for the lion.”
She said initially the search proved difficult because of the number of predators‚ including hyena and leopards‚ which were roaming the area.
“We came across multiple tracks‚ especially around waterholes‚ which made the search difficult. The tracks were crossing over each other so it was not initially possible to say 100% for sure that what we were looking at was a lion’s track.”
The proof they needed came two weeks ago when a farmer contacted them and the police and gave them CCTV footage from his farm gate.
Abrahamson said the footage clearly showed the lion walking past the gate.
She said the farmers and local communities‚ along with the local police‚ had been incredibly helpful in trying to track down the lion.
“Every time he kills something – which so far has been two donkeys‚ a cow and an Impala – we are immediately notified.
“This has helped us narrow down his location. Tomorrow [Friday] night we will be going out to a specific area with wildlife vets‚ police and conservation experts to track down and capture this cat‚ which up until now has managed to stay one step ahead of us.”
How they plan to do this‚ said Abrahamson‚ was quite simple.
“We will be tying bait‚ which is laced with a sedative‚ to a tree‚ and then will play the sounds of a wounded buffalo. We will be moving the sound around the area‚ bringing it closer to the bait‚ where the vets‚ who will be armed with dart guns‚ will dart it after it has been semi-sedated from eating the bait.”
Once darted‚ the lion will be taken to Pretoria Zoo‚ where vets are on standby to examine it for any injuries‚ to determine whether it is wild or domesticated‚ before they microchip it.
From the zoo‚ said Abrahamson‚ the lion would be sent to the Lion Rock sanctuary in Bethlehem‚ which was owned by Four Paws International.
She said at this stage it was not known where it had come from.
“We believe it may have been kept as someone’s pet because there are no reserves‚ breeding farms or sanctuaries in the area. If it was from a reserve its disappearance would have been reported by now. We believe that whoever kept it has not reported it missing as it is illegal to keep lions as pets without a permit‚ which is incredibly difficult to obtain.”
She said the lion was just one of 25 which were on the loose in South Africa‚ with the majority located in Limpopo.