The Big Sky country that is Karoo National Park has expanded its tourism appeal and righted a long-standing imbalance in the local predator/prey equation.
Lions relocated to the park outside Beaufort West in Western Cape in November 2010 have adapted well to the more arid climate of the Karoo after being moved from Addo Elephant National Park in Eastern Cape.
The Addo eight were moved to the Karoo park as part of the national conservation and biodiversity protection agency SANParks’ continued efforts to ensure all historically occurring species are again conserved in areas they once called home.
Three of the Karoo lions are, in animal terms, seasoned travellers originally from Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. These lions were selected for relocation because of genetic similarity to the Cape lions that would have historically been found in the Karoo.
Their disease-free status also made them good choice for breeding and expanding the lion gene pool.
Two Karoo lions have been fitted with satellite collars to allow rangers and researchers to monitor them. This information is available to Karoo Park visitors to improve their chances of seeing the king of beasts in the arid Karoo.
This information and what appears to be fairly regular stamping grounds for the seven remaining lions has resulted in any number of good lion sightings, particularly around Karoo’s 4x4 trails, Afsaal and Nuweveld, and also around Embizeni Cottage, the Doornhoek picnic site, Lammertjiesleegte and the restcamp.
One sub-adult lion died last December after being bitten by a puff adder.
Safety precautions in high visitor frequency areas such as the rest camp, fossil trail, swimming pool and camping area have been boosted by low level electrified fencing.
“The Doornhoek picnic site, Ou Schuur interpretive centre and Bulkraal day visitor site are now also fenced, but visitors are warned to be alert at all times,” SANParks regional communications officer Megan Taplin said.