ADDO Elephant National Park officials and staff have their hands full; not only are they monitoring the startling recovery of three orphaned lion cubs, they have to replant the 44 cycads worth R2-million that are the subject of a Green Scorpions court case.
The cycads, said to be more than 500 years old, were allegedly uprooted without a permit on a Jansenville farm, owned by Robert Biggs, 52.
He was released on R20 000 bail last week and has not pleaded.
Park conservation manager John Adendorff said SANParks was also trying to acquire a further 51 cycads on Biggs’s property, worth about R2-million.
“A lot of the cycads still on the farm have been uprooted. We are trying to revive and replant the cycads. But we are calling on the public to assist us with any tree vitamins, insecticides or cash as it costs us between R1 000 and R2 000 to replant each cycad.
“We have taken on the project on a voluntary basis,” Adendorff said.
The orphaned eight-month-old lion cubs have been named Lara, Shireen and Samson.
“The cubs are doing great. They have almost doubled in size, weighing between 25 and 30kg.When we found them, they only weighed between 8 and 10kg. They are all little gluttons, eating anything we throw in the enclosure. They even have little ‘boeps’ forming.
“They will be in the small boma for another three months before they are moved to an enclosed area of about 300ha, free of predators and filled with prey so they can learn to hunt for themselves. They will be in the 300ha space for about a year.”
The incredible survival story of the cubs started in November when their mother, Gina, died from a suspected snake bite.
The cubs were last spotted on December 20, before a long search was launched which resulting in their discovery on January 11. They were on the brink of starvation.
Biggs’s arrest came after Jan van Staden, 59, Honest Chipanga, 25, Sonondo Ndlovu, 39, and Admire Marima, 23, were arrested for trying to smuggle cycads worth R2-million out of the Eastern Cape.
Van Staden pleaded guilty last week and was given a three-year suspended jail sentence.
He is believed to have supplied information that led the Green Scorpions to Biggs and his farm Droëkloof. Biggs is scheduled to appear in the Jansenville Magistrate’s Court on April 8.
-Tremaine van Aardt