A pride of free roaming lions, said by some sources to be wandering around the Finale/Oaks/Blyde River Conservancy areas near Hoedspruit for the last two years at least, is being tracked by the Limpopo Department of Environmental Affairs with the intention of removing them.
At the time of going to press members of the department had been constantly looking for these lions for more than two weeks already.
According to Obed Mohage, newly appointed manager at the department of environmental affairs in Klaserie, the lions have been responsible for killing about 80 cattle in the Oaks/Finale area since June last year. "The communities are crying," he says.
He says the lions move into the communal lands, kill the cattle and then move to the neighbouring farms, Phuza Moya, Lissataba and Breytenbach. The Department has been aware of the problem for some time and put out a tender for the capture of the lions. Veterinarian Douw Grobler was asked to dart the lions, but according to Obed, Douw withdrew his services because the lions are too shy and wild.
Douw said he suspects previous attempts to capture the lions have scared them and made them wary of humans. It takes too long to find the animals and has become an expensive exercise. The idea was to capture one animal, collar her and have her lead the team to the rest of the group so that they could then be darted and captured, tested for tuberculosis and relocated if possible.
A male lion, one of the pride, was shot by the department near Sorabi Rock, last year. Obed suspects there are eight lions, cubs included, in the current group. By last week he had deployed three rangers on the game farms adjacent to the communal land in an effort to track and find the lion.
He assured the owners that every effort will be made to dart and capture the lions first and not destroy them. "Unfortunately rain has wiped away all the spoor and hampered our efforts to find the animals," he said. Meanwhile, his team was called out to the farm Lekkerlag near Mica where lions were spotted, thinking it was the 'Finale' lions. The department officials found and shot two lions, suspected to have come from the Balule area.
"They were two from a group of six, and we had to shoot them, as they were confused and clearly a danger to the people in the area," he said... The search for the Finale lions continues.