File picture: ANA

Johannesburg - Specialised trackers and rangers from the Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West in the Western Cape have now expanded the search area hoping to track the lion which escaped from the park almost two weeks ago.

"Today's ten-man team have split into three smaller teams in an attempt to cover a larger area of farmland," park manager Nico van der Walt said.

According to a statement by South African National Parks (SANParks), the police stock theft unit from Beaufort West assisted in the search on Tuesday.

"The teams searched on top of the mountains in an area called the Kleinboere, towards the north-east of the park. The section of the Kleinboere area that the teams could not cover yesterday will be searched today, and also north of that. This is between 15 and 20 kilometres from the park's boundary," Van der Walt said.

Farmers and farm workers in and around the area are requested to report sightings or evidence of lion spoor to the police or the park on 023 415 2828 or Van der Walt directly on 082 801 2109.

The lion is believed to have escaped from the park on Friday 15 February and now has a team on the ground permanently leading the search for it.

By midday on Tuesday, the team reported to still not have found any fresh tracks, nor have had any recent sightings of the lion.

"The team comprises four trackers and four rangers, led by Karoo National Park’s Senior Section Ranger. They will remain in the area where they suspect the lion to be until nightfall, making full use of the daylight hours available to them," said SANParks.

Van der Walt said from the momentary sighting rangers had of the animal last week, they believe the animal to be a two-and-a-half-year-old male.

"It’s believed he managed to escape underneath the park’s electrified fencing after heavy rain in the area washed away sediment along the boundary - and before rangers could get to all the areas to attend to these holes in the ground," Van der Walt said.

Landowners on the farm Highlands, to the north-east of the Karoo National Park, were asked to be on the lookout for the tracks of the escaped Karoo lion on Monday.

This came after two search teams lost the lion's track in the rocky harsh terrain that they were operating in over the weekend.

According to a statement by SanParks on Monday, local Beaufort West residents are fearful since the lion's escape.

Van der Walt though reassured residents that the lion was last seen more than 12km from the north-eastern boundary of the park and that this is in the opposite direction of the town's location to the park.

African News Agency (ANA)