Cape Town - Trackers, dogs and a helicopter are searching mountainous Karoo terrain to capture an escaped lion.
The lion escaped from the Karoo National Park last Friday, and has been moving across several farms west of the park, and preying on livestock.
One farmer told Weekend Argus that he lost 14 young sheep to the lion.
South African National Parks said in a release earlier this week that the lion is a 3-year-old male, who could have been forced to leave by older male lions in the park.
SANParks believes he escaped through a hole under the fence after damage caused by rain. He then entered private property through a stormwater drain.
On Friday SANParks spokeswoman Fayroush Ludick confirmed the lion was still on the loose, and nowhere in sight.
She said: “At lunchtime we had a helicopter out doing aerial surveillance.”
The lion has moved over 23km west of the Karoo National Park, and Ludick says that covers a few farms.
Tracker teams from three national parks are working together to find the lion: Karoo National, Addo Elephant and Mountain Zebra.
In an attempt at luring the lion, a gemsbok carcass was left out last Friday.
Ludick said the team spent 17 hours out on Thursday, returning after 9pm; this was their longest day of searching.
“The terrain is very mountainous. One of the team slipped and cracked his ribs. He is recovering at home.”
She confirmed that it was only one lion on the loose, based on the spoor.
Palmietfontein farm technical manager Nerine Koch described the sheep lost to the lion as “a tragic situation”.
The lion has now moved off their farm.
“At this stage we have had 14 sheep eaten: 13 ewes and one ram,” she said.
A fence had been broken, but they weren’t certain the damage was done by the lion.
“The lion was here for two nights. On the first night he ate eight sheep, and then he came back for more.”
She felt that SANParks could have done more to warn them of the lion on the loose.
Although the lion escaped last Friday, she said they only learnt about it when her uncle called to say the workers shouldn’t go out because of an escaped lion.
“This is the first time. This is a Karoo farm so this (the sheep) is our bread and butter. These were young ewes with five years of production. We struggle with predators out here, like jackals. We do everything to protect our livestock.”
Meanwhile, a parody Twitter account is making light of the situation.
@lionkaroo is active on Twitter with the bio: “Keeping my head down. Afraid of helicopters and dart guns. Want to get to Kenya”, with a location set to “hiding”.
Its first tweet read: “Please back off with the damned choppers. That tracker is going the wrong way. I need a decent nights sleep #KarooLion. @capetalk567”