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Karoo: Lions

Addo, Camdeboo, Karoo, Mountain Zebra
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Imberbe
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by Imberbe » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:50 pm

As a non-regular visitor to Karoo NP, I respect the views of regular visitors, and can understand that once you are accustomed to a certain experience, you want to preserve it. And yes, I can absolutely and fully understand the joy of being able to walk in a park such as this! There is simply no comparison between the experience of walking and that of driving! So I understand the protest.

But I do think that there may be other views that are just as legitimate.

SANParks has more than just a tourism mandate. They are the primary body in the country tasked with preserving our entire natural heritage. Tourism is but part of the mandate. They also have to see to the promotion and maintenance of the natural system. This they have done, and are doing by the increase in nature areas, and rehabilitation of previously degraded systems. In such a system they strive to rehabilitate the whole system, starting from the ground up, including plants, insects, mammal, etc. It would be a sad day when tourism becomes so strong, that it blocks this mandate. The predators play an important role in the whole ecology and functioning of such a natural system. They are truly the apex species, and their presence and well being is but the result of the whole system being in balance. As such, the predators such as lion should naturally be returned to as much of its previous range as possible, and to as many parks as is feasible.

Increasing the space available to predators also play an important role in the preservation of the species. Now, I have no illusions that the Karoo NP will hold enough lions to have a dramatic effect on the well being of the entire lions population of Southern Africa. But each extra reserve helps in increasing the already small footprint these magnificent animals have in their once huge distribution area. If I need to stay behind a fence to help in this ... so be it.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by Bush Baptist » Fri Dec 11, 2009 5:36 pm

Another consideration.

Is there enough for how many lions to eat. When I have been there we did not see an over abundance of animals. Is it worth the expense and trouble of fencing off the main rest camp and the camping areas for say 3 lions?

There are a few buffalo, which we did not see, and some mountain zebra, ottherwise the food is smaller game which would mean more kills to support lions which will breed.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by AjayB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:03 pm

For sure BB. I still reckon its worth trying even if there are some teething probs sorting out a nice balance of numbers. I have to say I am very much in favour of the program despite some possible drawbacks.

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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by Imberbe » Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:46 pm

I am sure that the studies would have been done on sustainability. In Marloth Park they have a group of four lions in a 3000 hectare camp. They cannot keep the local Impala population in check. Management had to remove plenty Impala to address over grazing. I know that it is a completely different ecosystem and different prey species ... but it does show that lion can survive in smaller areas.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by o-dog » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:01 am

Dont be fooled by what you see the Karoo national park has many many animals!
ON tuesday I saw over 20 kudus, more than 15 Hartebeest, about 50 Springbok, Gemsbok and some others. I also have seen a herd of 30 Eland there before as well as many mountain zebra and Rhebok etc so I think lions would probably be good for the park in terms of controlling the grazer numbers!
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by idefig » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:50 am

And then there is the Riverine Rabbit, which has found a place to breed in the KarooNP. Again, I've no problem with lion per se, but when we have a smallish reserve with some truly unique species, I think one should also look at the smaller stuff. It also needs to be conseved. I don't think it is only about conserving the big 5. Anyway, I had my say.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by JenB » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:04 am

Hi idefig,
Yes, I fully agree. :wink: I've never seen a Riverine Rabbit and would love to find one!
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by iNgisi » Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:43 pm

Hi
I have been to the Karoo NP twice, once to see what it is like and the second time because I liked the scenary. I could imagine that the introduction of lions would be beneficial for the long term health of their prey (mainly zebra and buffs?). However this would require the correct numerical balance and I assume that sanparks have the expertise to get this right. With respect to fencing in the camp there are examples of camps in SA that I have visited with lion that are unfenced e.g. Mapungubwe (sanparks) and Mpila (KZN) with appropriate warnings. These camps are small as is the camp in Karoo NP. Maybe people in tents would need a fence but otherwise???
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by Rooies » Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:26 pm

DuQues wrote:KTP has a few unfenced camps as well.


So are the camps in Botswana and there are no problems with lions, in fact a couple of lions walked right through our camp site one evening without even looking at us. The only problems I foresee is with the ratio of lions/prey species available and of course the juicy lamb chops on the other side of the fence.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by o-dog » Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:18 pm

Jane wrote:While it is important to conserve the Riverine Rabbit, that species has never been common and its current range in the SW Karoo mainly is what it has always been.

The African Lion on the other hand is severely threatened by disease in the lowveld and a fast shrinking range and unscrupulous trophy hunting where pride males are systematically taken out of the system in free ranging situations causing massive interuption and chaos in their social system...Canned hunting is even worse. So the spread of this species is to be welcomed and encouraged and is a key indicator species. I think its great news


Jane I have to disagree with you on this. Riverine Rabbit habitat has been hugely reduced due to poor farming methods and habitat destruction. They are critically endangered and the Karoo National Park is one of their last surviving 'strongholds'. Its easy to overlook them as you seem to have done as you show more concern for lions which being a huge flagship species get huge publicity and of all our mammals in South Africa has one of the more secure futures.
Not only do lions survive in South Africa, but in many other localities thoughout this continent. The Riverine rabbit is restricted to one SANParks and a couple of private farms as far as I know - this is very worrying.
And although disease is prevalent in some lion populations (although not proven to be a problem to the species nescessarily), there is nothing that says the population in South Africa is under threat. As far as I know its not even anywhere near making the CITES endangered lists and with a population of over 20 000 in Africa and well represented in private game farms and collections throughout the world I think if we had to choose one animal to conserve in the Karoo National Park, the Riverine Rabbit is of far greater importance!
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:34 pm

What an interesting debate. Thank you, Idefig, for bringing it to our attention.

I certainly understand your sentiment, idefig, and you seem to care very deeply for the Park. I am however sitting on the fence on this one.

One of the areas receiving more and more attention, is the preservation of the soil. It was actually the Vartys who were one of the first conservationists to take this seriously on their reserve. The bigger predators do play a role in keeping balance and preventing over-grazing. Trying to get back to some form of balance is essential. The over-grazing and degredation of the soil played a role in the decision to close many of the Kruger water holes.

Like many of you, Cheetah would have been my preference, but then I am not a scientist and I am not sure why Lion were chosen to come in first.

Certainly, the Riverrine Rabbit is also a major concern. I just wonder how much they would feature on a Lion's diet though? I should imagine that the Caracal and birds of prey would be a much bigger threat in this regard.
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by idefig » Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:55 am

Hello Everyone,

Thought you'd be interested in SANParks response (I emailed them before writing in the forum):



Dear

Thank you for taking the time to write to us about your concerns with regards to re-introducing lions into Karoo National Park. We take your concerns seriously and the response from the CE of SANParks, the Park Manager and Senior Section Ranger are as follows:

The Park Manager and Senior Section Ranger have responded as follows:

The decision to introduce lion or any larger predator into the park is firstly guided by our park management plan which states the reasons for the introduction of larger predators. As part of any large ecosystem all trophic levels should be balanced to allow for a successful food chain to develop. The only missing link in Karoo NP is larger predators. Karoo NP has small predators that can control smaller species of herbivores but no large predator exists in the park to control or prey on larger herbivore like hartebeest, eland, gemsbok etc. To allow for minimum interference in a system it is crucial to have all aspects of that system in place. That will prove to be a healthy system then. Lion did occur in the Central Karoo before in large numbers before, and our mandate is to re-introduce species that previously occurred in the area. Karoo NP, now at almost 90 000 ha, can now sustain large predators with ease due to its size. The introduction of lion was decided upon and was approved by the Board after all assessments and decision making processes were followed, as well as input from Wildlife Management Committee and scientists. The introduction of lion is not only a biodiversity benefit to the park but will also benefit tourism (although the decision is not based on this reason). Lion can only contribute to the wilderness effect of the park and will not detract any experience from visitors but will enhance their experience of Karoo NP. We can assure you that this decision has not been hastily made, but that assessments and research has been conducted by experts in this field for a number of years to ascertain the sustainability and impact of lions on the ecosystem in the Park.

SANParks CE, Dr David Mabunda’s has responded as follows:

Thank you for raising the matter on the introduction of lions into Karoo National Park. We have considered all the issues you are raising and we are satisfied that introducing lions in the park will not pose a threat to visitors and staff alike. We also do not intend to infringe on the freedom of visitors and their experience in the camp by fencing it with high fences that will cause visible impacts. The predator proof fence will be the most modern and invisible to the human eye. Lions have a natural fear for human beings, unless they are man-eaters, and will stay very far from human presence. The presence of predators has an ecological value to the antelope population and it’ll stop the need to cull or relocate them. Once the pride tastes kudu or springbok it will not view human beings as a meal. An incident of predator-human conflict will be an exception than the rule.

Be rest assured that you will still enjoy the Karoo experience like never before even with the introduction of lions.

As a valued client, we sincerely hope that you will continue to visit Karoo National Park and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Karoo landscapes and wildlife.

Kind regards
Mandy Roets

Regional Marketing Manager – Frontier Region
Addo Elephant * Mountain Zebra * Karoo * Camdeboo National Parks
SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL PARKS (SANParks)

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Of course, I was under no illusion that lion would not be introduced to the KarooNP just because of little ol' me, but had to share my concern.

I am still concerned, and I will book a visit sometime after the lions are introduced and see how it all turns out. I must try to remember that the Karoo NP has recently been extended, which should make it easier to absorb a large predator. :|

I hope they will keep tabs on the Riverine Rabbit. I just have visions of lion cubs learning to hunt and enjoying some nice endangered morsels :wink: and the Riverine Rabbit disappear from one of it’s last surviving locations.

I have nothing against lions, I just would not want a critically endangered species to cease to exist simply for the expediency of tourism. :cry:

I must remember, I have always been impressed by how SANParks have built their camps and managed to blend in with the environment in other SAN Parks, so this fence might indeed work. I guess we can do anything we put our minds to, in South Africa. Shall wait and see. :? I just cannot see it in my mind’s eye.

I do hope it will all go as planned and that the Karoo NP continues to deliver scenic, serene, panoramic game, sky, nature and fossil watching for all visitors including myself and my family and friends (who are all concerned people).

I have asked the cheetah question, i.e. have cheetah been introduced to the Karoo NP? For that matter, was the Karoo a natural historic area that cheetah inhabited? Perhaps they did in the very remote past. I’d have thought it was good terrain for them. I would love to know the answer. Not a super predator as such, but should keep some springbuck in check.
(I'll share the answer when I get it)

It is commendable that the CE of SANParks, the Park Manager and Senior Section Ranger themselves replied and that is a very good reflection on how SANParks deals with concerns. It is most appreciated.

By the way, I googled John Varty and his work with tigers. Very laudable work he is doing. Tigers and leopard are my favourite big cats, albeit tigers are not endemic / indigenous. It is nice to know that I don't have to spend enormous amounts of money to visit India and be disappointed by non-sightings of tigers in the wild. Better to visit the "zoo" in the Karoo. :hmz:. Not that lion are not interesting and powerful animals, I've experienced that first hand in the wild, twice, and it is something to remember :thumbs_up:, but I will always prefer the more secretive cats.

Well everyone, that was an interesting debate and brought up some viewpoints I had not thought of. Thank you for that. Do all keep well and hope you all have a great holiday, in our parks, I hope. Keep your eyes peeled :big_eyes: and enjoy the experience!

Rgds,
idefig

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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by missings.a.! » Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:29 pm

Can I just come in here, although not claiming to be an expert I have the benefit of reading all your posts.

IMO, if lion were present in the Karoo in the past, then they should be there in the future. It all balances out and the Karoo cannot afford to be overgrazed by herbivores. I cannot believe that lion would be too interested in a rabbit, as one impala is not enough meat for a pride.

If there are to be lions in the Karoo, it will take some of the pressure off KNP, as an added venue that international visitors and SAs can see lion.

I read this morning that not so long ago there were 200,000 lions in Africa, now there are only around 22,000. :( We now know that apart from the pleasure of seeing them, they play a very important role in protecting the land from the herbivores and thus, soil erosion.

As an outsider who has lived in SA, I have always paid attention to Sanparks and I can assure you, Sanparks is very respected as leading the way in African conservation.

Perhaps those who wish to hunt big game should instead be given the task of hunting poachers and their masterminds. We can launch a competition for the best wall mountings for the stuffed heads!

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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by DinkyBird » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:18 pm

missings.a.! wrote:As an outsider who has lived in SA, I have always paid attention to Sanparks and I can assure you, Sanparks is very respected as leading the way in African conservation.

Thank you for sharing this with us missings.a! I know many on this forum will agree with this. We need to acknowledge this too, and be very appreciative of it!
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Re: Introduction of Lion to the Karoo National Park

Unread post by gmlsmit » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:54 pm

Lions most definitely roamed the mountains and the plains of the Karoo National Park many years ago.

Reintroducing them; therefore would be another effort by SANPARKS in the restoration of the species that frequented the areas in the past.

Please believe me when I state that proper studies will be carried out by the Scientists and Conservation Staff of SANPARKS before such restocking may take place. The carrying capacity will be a deciding factor about any predators introduced.

I have visited the KNP on many occasions and next time I may be very fortunate, maybe I would see a lanky spotted cat or maybe two.

I honestly do not for one moment believe that this has anything whatsoever to do with soccer, I honestly believe that this has to do with the restoration of the balance of NATURE.
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