If you are visiting St Lucia this week, do not be alarmed if you spot a leopard or hippo walking the streets. Local Larina Joubert recently spotted a leopard wandering near the Lake St Lucia Estuary section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, where wildlife roam freely throughout the estuarine forests bordering the village of St Lucia.
At the time of print, the leopard that was spotted was not found.
Entirely surrounded by the World Heritage Site’s dense vegetation, red duiker, bushbuck, mongoose, crocodiles, vervet monkeys, waterbuck and a myriad birds are permanent residents.
iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said the wildlife is one of the greatest draw cards to this southern section of the World Heritage Site.
In a statement released by the organisation following the leopard spotting, Zaloumis said there were few towns in the world with such a combination of warm ocean, golden beaches and prolific birds and wild animals peacefully cohabiting with human residents and visitors.
One of the most seen guests on the streets are hippos that walk the roads. Zaloumis said they are often spotted on the gardens and streets.
While it may be fun to sight a wild animal, he encourages people to be vigilant and respect the animal.
“With a predominantly international visitor population and animals seeking their natural food close to human habitation in the leaner winter months, we remind visitors to be very vigilant when walking in town or in the forested areas to avoid any negative encounters.
“Wild animals have lived here since time immemorial. They remain wild and are potentially dangerous defending their territory and young. The rule of thumb is to give them as wide a berth as possible, whether on foot or in a vehicle. Be especially aware of hippo and if you must walk in town at night, use a powerful torch. Do not at any time be tempted to enter the estuary water. It is the crocodile you can’t see that poses the greatest risk,” he warns.
If you may see or hear any potentially dangerous or unlawful situations, snares, feeding of wildlife or provocation of animals, contact a 24-hour emergency line on 0827977944.