Lions at Gondwana Game Reserve - Picture taken from Gonwana's own website.

Cape Town - Four of the lions that escaped from Gondwana Game Reserve have been returned to their habitat. But a lioness, which rangers spent most of on Thursday looking for, was found dead.

CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence said the lioness had died from injuries sustained from crawling through a small hole in the fence separating the reserve from a neighbouring farm.

Algoa FM quoted general manager Neil Davison as saying that the hole had been created by porcupines and rodents.

Davison said a small number of cattle had possibly been stalked and killed by the rogue pride. The cattle were reportedly grazing along the fence line which separates the reserve from a neighbouring farm.

This confirmed some farmers’ fears that the lions would hunt livestock on their land. One woman had reportedly asked for an armed guard to protect her stable of horses.

Lawrence confirmed that some cattle had been killed. He said the lions had never been a danger to residents in the area.

With vast open farmland separating the reserve from the coastal town of Mossel Bay, the chances of a lion encountering a human were minute.

“We are happy with how Gondwana handled this, but we will now be working with them to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” Lawrence said.

This would include reinforcing the perimeter fence.

The death of the lioness will come as a blow to the reserve which in the last 10 years has taken on an ambitious project to reintroduce a strong pride of lions to the area.

In late 2012, the reserve celebrated the birth of two lion cubs.

“These are believed to be the first wild lion cubs born in the Southern Cape for the last 150 years,” reserve staff said at the time. By now those cubs would be fully grown.

This followed the introduction of a black-maned male lion from the Kalahari in 2008.

The conservation project has seen Gondwana populate the 11 000-hectare reserve with a range of indigenous game.

Staff said all species were flourishing in the environment.

Cape Argus