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Lodge owner fails to stop neighbour’s lions

The entrance to Mbala Lodge

The entrance to Mbala Lodge

Published Sep 29, 2014

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Pretoria - Lions due to be released at a Limpopo game farm were the subject of an urgent high court application as the owners of an adjacent farm feared people using a road from the game farm, through their property, may be mauled by these predators once they were set free to roam the area.

Mark and Michelle Thompson who own Mbala Lodge in the Lephalale (Ellisras) district, took their neighbour Marthinus Bamberger of the farms Olifantskop and Grootfontein plus the Limpopo Department of Tourism to the Gauteng Provincial Division of the High Court, sitting in Pretoria.

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Bamberger runs a tourist lodge and hunting facility on his farm.

He obtained permission from the provincial authorities to relocate, among other animals, lions and hippo to the farm.

The Thompsons are contesting the permits issued to Bamberger to introduce these animals, saying they were had not been consulted about this.

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But their main concern for now is the safety of people using the public road which runs through their property.

They told Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann that the matter was extremely urgent as the lions were due to arrive at any time soon.

They said that in rural settings such as this, people were transported on game viewing vehicles, open bakkies and trailers. The local population and workers also often travel along the road on foot.

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The Thompsons said it was not uncommon for farmworkers to move to and fro late at night and they were at great danger if lions roamed the area.

The judge was told another problem was if vehicles got stuck on the public road with the occupants having to walk to the closest farmstead in search of help.

They would have to move through dense bush where a lion may lurk.

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The danger of a member of the public being mauled by a lion introduced by their neighbour left them with no choice but to approach the court, the Thompsons argued.

“We have a civic duty to bring this application, especially to protect our employees.”

The Thompsons said they and their visitors also faced being mauled if they jogged or cycled along the road.

Bamberger said he was within his rights to release lions on his property as he already received permission for this as far back as 2012.

His neighbours were aware of the fact that he was going to release lions on his farm, he argued.

Bamberger said he had spent more than R1.5 million in fencing off the area.

A limited number of people had access to the public road running through his neighbour’s farm, he said. The road was gated at every fence between his properties and that of his neighbours.

These gates were locked with padlocks and only he, his workers and the Thompsons and their workers had keys to the gates.

Eskom occasionally used the road when it undertook maintenance, but its workers made prior arrangements.

Bamberger said he had never seen his neighbours either jog or cycle along the road in question.

Judge Bertelsmann gave Bamberger the go-ahead to release his lions, but ordered that there had to be a proper boundary fence in place, with remote controlled gates.

A security guard will also be on duty at an access point to ensure the safety of those using the road.

Pretoria News

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