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Freedom Denied

Coen van Wyk

Posted on March 16, 2019 10:52

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The search for freedom, the search for new horizons, the imperative to break out of the mold comes to us all. But when you’re a lion, things can get complicated.

The town of Beaufort West is known for its arid beauty and vast open spaces. A quick parenthesis: The word Karoo is from the Khoikhoi language and means the land of thirst. Always thinly populated, with scarce game, it is now a region of extensive sheep farming, while some farmers also encourage the hardier antelope species to multiply. This arid region isolated the Cape region from the interior for ages, and even today Beaufort West provides welcome relief to the weary traveler. One would be well advised to break the long trip by visiting the nearly Karoo National Park, well stocked with the wildlife that used to roam this region. Lions were re-introduced a decade or so ago.

Open space. Nightjar magazine

All young males reach a point in their lives when new horizons beckon. Perhaps the older males became oppressive with their conservative politics. Perhaps a nubile young thing had given him the cold shoulder. Or perhaps the recent rains in the desert evoked atavistic memories of vast herds of antelope who would follow. Whatever the reason, one young lion, later named by the press after the Disney character Mufasa, decided to head out.
 
Early on 15 February park rangers spotted him outside the fence. They warned the public, and a marathon through the dusty desert town was hurriedly re-routed. Everyone expected the lion to be recaptured soon, but he had a different idea. Tourism was in the plans.

Trackers found the spoor, and soon encountered some sheep carcasses. Mufasa was rediscovering the bounty of nature. And these modern antelope were so easy to catch! Then he disappeared into rocky, impenetrable gorges. A helicopter, and later sophisticated drones, were deployed.

Then a farmer, following circling vultures, found another kill: an eland, not an easy prey for a solitary lion. And, let us admit, male lions are not such good hunters, it is usually the female who makes the kill.

Lion trying for an eland in the Kgalakgadi park. This one got away. Africa Geographic


Once again Mufasa disappeared into the vastness of the veld, and it was through hard work, accurate tracking, and teamwork that he was finally brought to bay, 27 days and 260 km (150 miles) later. Defiant to the last he faced the helicopter, but was darted and brought down. 

Teamwork made the difference. Rapportweb

Daylight was fading, so he was brought to the town of Sutherland where, ignominy of all, the only holding cage was a cell in the local police station! An enterprising journalist interviewed him through the bars the next morning. 
 
I am happy to report that the police did not press any charges against the King of the Jungle, and he was returned to his home turf, now fitted with a radio collar so that any future excursions could be monitored.

Perhaps someone played him the song: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” And maybe he will find his Bobby McGee in the park.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on March 16, 2019 10:52

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Source: Denver Post

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Lions, that symbol of Africa's wild beauty, power and freedom, no longer roam in Mali.

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