The Path of a Feline Houdini
Sylvester first acquired his name and his fame when he escaped from the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West in June 2015. He was two years old – the lion equivalent of a human teenager.
Within days, his exploits had provided urban South Africans with some much-needed light relief, in the form of regular SANParks updates.
Thanks to social media and 24-hour news, Sylvester took only days to become infamous, roaming 300km through livestock farms and the Nuweveld Mountains, leaving a trail of fevered rumours, alarmed farmers and the carcasses of 28 sheep in his wake.
The lion led Southern Africa’s best trackers and a half-dozen sniffer dogs a merry dance through the rough terrain. His capture three weeks later could not have been more dramatic, involving a freakishly tricky shot from a National Parks veterinarian wielding a tranquilliser dart gun from a helicopter. Sylvester was returned to his former home unconscious and swinging from a cargo bag under the chopper, a dangerous operation that began with the game capture helicopter’s blades whirring only metres away from rocky mountain top.
By that time he’d made an R800 000 hole in SANParks’ budget. In March 2016, he broke out again. This time it was much easier to find him – rangers had taken the precaution of fitting him with a radio collar. Three days and one dead cow later, he was brought back home.
In May 2016, he was translocated to Kuzuko and in January 2017, he walked free again.