Canned Lion Hunting

The imminent death sentence over Sylvester’s life has been temporarily suspended as SANParks has scheduled an urgent meeting to discuss the lion’s future.

On Tuesday, 29 March, Reynold Thakhuli for SANParks told News Agents that due to being “identified as a damage-causing animal, unfortunately the lion will be euthanised”. Thakhuli said that the animal had become a threat to human life, and therefore the decision was taken to put it down.

But this announcement was met with great resistance from SANParks enthusiasts, who say the decision goes against the very morals of what a national park should strive to protect.

Some SANParks Honorary Rangers have also come forward saying they will dissociate themselves with the organisation should the euthanasia go ahead.

An online petition has also been launched to stop the euthanasia of Sylvester. Click here to add your name.

Public outcry to save the lion’s life spread like a wildfire, drawing the attention of South African conservationist and filmmaker John Varty, who has offered to give Sylvester a home in his Tiger sanctuary, Tiger Canyons.

The conservancy is situated about 25km north west of the town of Philippolis in the Karoo, not far from the Karoo National Park.

Varty posted a message on Facebook saying he will contact SANParks to offer to take the lion in. “I will take him and give him a home. Tread lightly on the Earth,” Varty said.

Currently the Tiger Canyons conservancy has no lions, but Varty said that he would build a sanctuary especially for him, in excess of 1000 hectares. Varty also says he will introduce females lions to Sylvester’s territory. The project will cost around R2 million, which Varty says he will “raise through the Tiger Conservation programme”.

Other sanctuaries, like Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary and Londolozi Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands reserve have reportedly also offered to give the lion refuge, members on the official SANParks – Karoo National Park Facebook group has stated.

These developments surrounding Sylvester’s planned euthanasia has caused SANParks to reconsider their decision, and weigh all options, including euthanasia against one another.

The lion also bought himself some time since it could not be tracked, caught and put down on Tuesday, as was the plan.

Strong winds and tough terrain on Tuesday meant rangers weren’t able to catch up with him. The helicopter called in to assist from Port Elizabeth needed to be return and staff went out again on Wednesday morning in the search of him.

SANParks on Tuesday night still reiterated their decision to put the lion down, saying the decision “was not taken lightly by SANParks management. A number of factors were taken into consideration, the overriding one being the threat he poses to human life.”

But on Wednesday morning, SANParks’ mood has changed. Reynold Thakhuli for SANParks shared that an urgent SANParks meeting will be held as soon as possible.

“All options will be considered,” Thakhuli said.

A decision about the lion’s future is expected to be made before the end of day, Wednesday, 30 March – but until then Sylvester remains on the loose.

If spotted, members of the public are requested not to approach it, but to alert park authorities of the location on 023 415 2828 or 023 414 7080.

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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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