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Two male lions introduced to South Africa's Karoo National Park

13/02/2013 11:06:18
world/Africa_2012/Karoo_lion_sanp

Two male lions in their boma in Karoo National Park

Karoo lion population boosted

February 2013. Two male lions from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park have been released into the Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West, bringing the total number of lions now in the Park to nine.

The two lions were released from a lion enclosure in the eastern section of the Park. Park Management predicts that they will most likely develop their own fixed territories within the Park and defend these territories from the other resident males.

Reintroduced in 2010
In 2010 a small founder population of lion was introduced into Karoo from Addo Elephant National Park outside Port Elizabeth. The group was originally all from Kgalagadi or offspring from the original group of Kgalagadi lions that were introduced to Addo in 2003. They have settled very well into the Karoo National Park and two cubs were born in November last year.

The decision was made to introduce the two three-year-old male lions into the Karoo to prevent inbreeding as a result of an island effect (no migration of other lion individuals into or out of the population), and to increase genetic diversity in the Park. The two have been housed in a temporary enclosure since their arrival in November to adapt and acclimatise to their new environment.

Danger to the new cubs

In the wild, it isn't unusual for young lions, when taking over a pride, to kill the recent cubs from that pride so the lioness come into season more quickly.

Wildlife Extra asked SANParks if this was a danger.

Their response was "There is a possibility that it may happen, but the pride will always defend the cubs against any intruders. The cubs are a few months old already and are now walking with the other adults. They are not as vulnerable to "predation" by other lions as when they are still weak and only a few weeks old. Due to the size of the Park, it also may be that the new lions will only encounter the cubs at a much later stage when they are bigger."

Balance herbivore numbers
Park manager Nico van der Walt says, "The introduction of predators into Karoo National Park forms part of attempts to restore the ecological processes in the Park, specifically to re-establish the process of predation. This will help to control herbivore numbers naturally and decrease the need for capturing and culling, which is in line with SANParks' ‘minimum interference' philosophy".

In protected areas with no large predators, herbivore numbers can soar to unnaturally high densities that could in return be detrimental to sensitive ecosystems like the Karoo. The lions fulfil their ecological role by removing older and weaker animals from the system and by impacting on the herbivore population size in the Karoo National Park.

It is envisaged that the two sub-adult males will hopefully take over the role of dominant males at a later stage, when the two older males reach their "retiring age" and lose their control over the pride.

Economic benefit
Kgalagadi lion are known for their impressive dark brown manes and enhance the tourism product offered. "Introducing more lion into the Park has an economic spinoff as it improves the ecotourism value of the area, as large carnivores are charismatic species which people like to see, or even merely to know are present in an area," says van der Walt.

Lions were reintroduced in 2010.

 

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