Hunting for lions in the Karoo National Park
By Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
We didn't come to See the Lions, but we DID hope to See the Lions. We came via Baviaanskloof. 25 years ago we were in the Karoo National Park. We could walk, over the koppies, with a group of eland just over the ridge. Keep very still. And quiet. Nothing to be heard, except their snuffling and snorting. Then just as suddenly they are alert, aware of us, and gone.
In November 2010 lions returned to the Karoo. There is an electric fence around the accommodation. You may only walk outside the camp on guided hikes, escorted by an armed ranger. Who explains carefully – what to do – when mock charged by a lion. We went to see the Karoo bossies, where once we walked with eland …
Zebras with plain trousers are Burchell’s. With a short erect mane of striped hairs – rather like a child’s toy. Even a solitary old stallion prefers to travel in a mixed herd of animals. They are inquisitive, and will stop to look back, before galloping away. They will bite and kick, fending off even wild dogs. ‘Their only enemy is the lion’.
We saw a group of zebra. A stallion. Three mares. Each with her foal. Later in the day, we saw the group again. If it was the same group – the foal who kept stopping to say – Look Mum is that …? – was no longer with them.
Striped trousers are Mountain Zebras. Their reserve is near Cradock. The Karoo has the largest herd with 500 of these endangered zebras.
Zebra info from Paul Rose – The wildlife of South Africa
In September two lions, two lionesses and four cubs came to the Karoo Park from Addo, and ultimately from Kgalagadi. The last wild lion was shot at Leeu-Gamka in 1842. The Leeu and the Gamka rivers use the Afrikaans and San words for lion. Because there were no predators, other solutions had to be found for burgeoning numbers of gemsbok, red hartebeest, eland, kudu and ostrich. Lunching on leaf ears in Gondwana.
The Ungardener was disappointed that we hadn’t Seen the Lions, so we went out for a game drive in the evening light in November 2010. I had a feeling we would see them. Slow down. Back up a bit. A little more. There. See the ears?
Into the lion’s mouth.
We returned to camp before the 7 o’clock summer curfew. Next morning, he went out alone. Back to the same place in the clearer more silvery light of dawn.
The adult lions have radio collars. The rangers can track where they are, what habitat they prefer, and who they ate for lunch. Wild-coyotes-patrol-Chicago thanks to BioBabbler for this collar story.
We saw a family of three, one of the lionesses and her two cubs. Below the Klipspringer Pass on the Potlekkertjie Loop.
Meet the gaze of a young lady. A lioness cub, with a delicately beautiful face, belying her future where Lunch will be a largish herbivore.
I do miss that experience of being able to walk freely. Our ranger had only been at the park for two months after training at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden.
2010 Background info from SANParks news
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