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Media Release: An update on Mountain Zebra National Park's lion

Date: 6th June 2014

All indications are that the three lion introduced into Mountain Zebra National Park outside Cradock in April last year have settled down well in their new home.

The three, one lioness and two males became the first free-roaming lions in the area after an absence of over 130 years.  They were the third predator species in the Park – after the introduction of cheetah in 2007 and brown hyena in 2008. 

Park Manager, Megan Taplin, says it appears as if the two feline species are co-existing peacefully.  “We allowed the cheetah to first establish themselves in the Park before introducing lion which may have competed with the cheetah for food.  The numbers of large herbivores in the Park such as black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland and gemsbok have sustained the lion population while cheetah tend to focus on smaller species such as springbok and young antelope,” she said.

Taplin says monitoring has shown that cheetah tended to avoid areas where lion roamed. Although the two species had encountered one another, there appears to have been no major incidents yet, with the cheetah fleeing from the lion when conflict arose.

The lone lioness was sourced from Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West, while the two males were brought in from Welgevonden Game Reserve in Limpopo.  The decision to introduce lion into the Park was mainly for biodiversity reasons.  “Lions occurred here historically and it is SANParks’ policy to reintroduce the wildlife species which would have occurred in an area before hunting or habitat loss forced them to local extinction in earlier centuries.  They are also occupying the niche of large predator in the ecosystem, keeping the numbers of larger herbivores in the Park in check,” said Taplin. 

The three were collared so that Park Management could monitor them and rangers and researchers could observe which habitats they use and which species they prey on.  After their release, the brothers were mostly seen together, while the lioness has been exploring the Park on her own most of the time and only occasionally meeting up with them.  

Apart from their biodiversity value, the introduction of the lion has also added to Mountain Zebra’s tourism value, offering visitors a new species to look out for in the Park.   Guests to the Park over the past year have increased by over 14%, compared to the year heading up to the lions’ introduction.  Unit occupancy has increased by nearly seven percent while camp site occupancy recorded a four percent increase.

“We are very happy with what our statistics are telling us.  Although our primary reason for introducing the lions wasn’t to increase tourism, it’s certainly a welcome effect.  The draw card of the lions has introduced more people to the Park’s wonderful landscapes and great game viewing potential. We look forward to building on this in the future as the word spreads and more people are drawn to both the Park and the region,” Taplin concluded.

Mountain Zebra National Park's lion
This photograph was taken on Thursday 5 June, after the brothers successfully took down a buffalo in the Ebenaezer area of the Park the day before (Wednesday 4 June).

Issued by:
South African National Parks (SANParks) Frontier Region Communications
Tel: 082 888 0201

Enquiries:  
Fayroush Ludick
Regional Manager: Communications, SANParks  
Tel: 082 888 0201
Email: fayroush.ludick@sanparks.org

 

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