Sylvester the Lion now set to be King of his larger Addo kingdom

NOVEMBER 22, 2016

The country’s most famous lion, Sylvester, has taken the first step towards reigning supreme over his new kingdom at Addo Elephant National Park’s Kuzuko contractual area. 

"On Sunday, he was moved out of the holding boma he’d called home for the past six months, into a larger 200 hectare enclosure," described Fayroush Ludick, Regional Manager: Communications at SANParks.

"Here, he and his coalition partner, the younger male he’s been bonding with in the boma since May, 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."

A carcass was deposited nearby to lure them out of the boma, which the two females initially started feasting on.  The younger lion ventured out first and made quick work of moving the lionesses from the awaiting meal. 

"It wasn’t long before Sylvester joined him in chasing the young ladies off, and returned to the carcass to feast," said Ludick.  

"Forty-eight hours later, they were still spotted around the carcass – clearly indicating their dominance, with Sylvester as the resident pride male.  The two have not yet ventured further from the boma or from one another, and are roaring and marking their new-found territory, while the lionesses keep a cautious watch from a nearby hill."

He said that 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.

Two weeks ago, the two older males on the property, aged 13 and 15 respectively, were moved out of the area to make way for Sylvester and company’s introduction into the area. 

"They were moved to a different section of the Park, known as Kleinvakte," explained Ludick

Three stories to merge into one:

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 on 31 March.

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. 

Finally, the younger male also has a tale to tell – being the only male in a litter born to Josie last year.  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.  He was moved to Kuzuko to join Sylvester in June.

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

Image: The two male lions (Sylvester on the left) can still be seen in close proximity to each other in their larger enclosure on the Kuzuko property inside Addo Elephant National Park.  Photographer:  Gerhard de Lange