The Karoo National Park has lost seven lions; they were put down due to escaping and killing sheep from a neighboring farm.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) has defended this decision in a statement on Friday, saying that it wasn’t taken lightly.
Beauty Without Cruelty SA Chairperson Toni Brockhoven says that killing an entire pride of lions because they have escaped is a national disgrace and that SANParks owes the country an explanation on why didn’t non-lethal methods were used.
He adds that there are no “damage-causing animals” and that only humans are believers that they have the right to claim everything as their own.
The director of Four Paws in South Africa also strongly disagrees with this decision saying that if quality standards, regular fence, and perimeter checks were met, this situation could have been avoided.
Miles also says that appropriate preventive steps should have been taken after the first escape, hopefully preventing the second attempt. The loss of an entire pride can shock the whole ecosystem and biodiversity.
“By removing these wild lions, a significant loss in the gene pool will occur and impact the already dwindling wild lion population of the country,” Miles continued.
Miles concludes, saying that there was no human life immediately in danger and that this decision was extreme, and with the proper management, this situation could and should have been avoided at all costs.
The SANParks have explained that lions that threaten livestock and people are in high urgency level. In this case, SANParks was placed to weigh-up its options to a complex set of situations that presented itself in Karoo National Park.
SANParks also explains that the female lion group had left the Park, killing the sheep from the neighboring and presenting a threat to humans and adds that the pride had familiarised themselves with a particular area. Some members had developed a habit of digging underneath fences.
With strong evidence and all factors, considered the SANParks says that those lions had high chances of leaving the Park again and continue to be a risk for livestock and humans.
Lions are known for being an opportunistic species, and for preferring easy prey, being fast learners could have become habit livestock raiders whenever circumstances allowed.
SANParks continued saying that due to the pride’s history of catching livestock and space constraints moving the lions to privately owned reserves or states reserves was not viable.
Management of lions in small reserves such as Karoo National Park bordered by communities is incredibly challenging. In that environment, lion densities increase due to the fewer threats to their survival.
South Africa is on the top five African states that conserve lions, and small reserves play a crucial role, joining the lion population in 59 state and private reserves covering over 700.
Fourteen lions remain in the Karoo National Park; these are three to four groups with two active satellite collars, and VHF monitored collars.