Sylvester the lion now has a pal and two girls

NO WAY OUT: Sylvester the escape artist is settling into his new home at Addo Picture: ATHENA O’REILLY
NO WAY OUT: Sylvester the escape artist is settling into his new home at Addo

A lion who won global fame when he went on a three-week escapade after escaping from a reserve has now earned the right to partial freedom‚ after being moved to a less restricted enclosure of the Addo national park.

Sylvester escaped from the Karoo national park twice before being moved to the Addo reserve‚ when the South African National Parks heeded a social media campaign not to put him down. Sanparks had contemplated the move as they feared he was a danger due to his penchant to break out of the reserve.

He has spent the past six months in a holding boma at Addo‚ but at the weekend he gained more freedom by being released into a larger 200 hectare enclosure in the reserve’s Kuzuko contractual area.

Sanparks spokesman Fayroush Ludick said Sylvester is being held with a younger male he’s been bonding with in the boma since mid-year. Both have joined up with the two females on the property.

“The decision to let them out was based on the park management’s opinion that the two had settled and bonded sufficiently in order to start a new coalition and lead Kuzuko’s pride in future‚” Ludick said.

“Park management will keep a close eye on the four over the next few days and weeks‚ paying particular attention to their social interaction‚ before making a decision about when to release them into the entire 15‚000 hectares of Kuzuko.”

Sylvester first escaped from Karoo National Park on 5 June last year‚ and managed to evade capture for over three weeks. After his capture he was fitted with a combination satellite/VHF collar to find his location should he manage to get out again. This collar then alerted authorities on 28 March earlier this year that the lion had once again left the park’s boundary‚ and played a big role in tracking him and returning him back to the Park much quicker – three days later.

The younger male lion he is sharing his domain with was the only male in a litter born to Josie last year. Ludick said he would have experienced the same fate Sylvester did had he been left in Addo’s main camp section of the park – being driven out of the pride and having to fend for himself‚ possibly even killed by older‚ more dominant lions.

The two lionesses arrived at Kuzuko in May last year. They became a national news item in December 2014 when park authorities made a desperate plea for visitors to report any sightings of them after their mother died of a suspected snake bite. More than six weeks after they were last seen and long after park staff had given up all hope of finding them alive‚ new light arose when a guide alerted rangers that he may have spotted them on 10 January last year. Although sceptical‚ the park’s rangers still went out and miraculously found the cubs – albeit severely malnourished and lethargic.

“Time will now tell when these three interesting histories meet – and kick off the story of the new Kuzuko pride.”

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