update (07 March 2012): The lions released into Karoo National Park in November 2010 have adapted well to their new home and are in excellent condition. Both Park rangers and visitors have reported sightings of the lions at various areas in the Park over the past year and the lions have definitely brought a new aspect to wildlife viewing in the Great Karoo. [more]
SANParks, South Africa's body responsible for managing the country's National Parks, has released eight lions (two male lions, two lionesses and four cubs) in the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West. Before the release into the park Africa's big cats were absent in the area for roughly 170 years. According to historical records, the last wild lion was shot at the nearby settlement of Leeu-Gamka in 1842. Historical evidence of lion occurrence in the area includes farm and river names based on the word “leeu” or lion and the fact that the two main rivers draining the central karoo mountains – the Leeurivier and Gamka River – derive from the Afrikaans and San words for lion respectively.
The eight new lions were translocated from nearby Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape, where the establishment of a lion population has been very successful following their introduction back in 2003.