New Blood Lions & Wild Dogs at SA World Her­itage Site

Tourism Tattler - - CONSERVATION - By Deb­bie Cooper.

A coali­tion of three male lions was col­lared and re­leased from their hold­ing boma into the uMkhuze sec­tion of the South Africa's first world her­itage site, the iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park, late on the 18th of Oc­to­ber 2016.

Big Cats

The lions, from the Tswalu Kala­hari Re­serve are ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct from the pride of 16 lions presently re­sid­ing in iSi­man­gal­iso, all of which are from the same blood line. The lions re­mained in the boma for sev­eral weeks be­fore be­ing re­leased to ac­quaint them­selves with the ex­ist­ing pride.

This in­tro­duc­tion boosts the estab­lish­ment of a vi­able pop­u­la­tion in iSi­man­gal­iso af­ter the last lion was shot by con­ser­va­tion­ists some 47 years ago for go­ing “rogue” in what was then an un­fenced park. The first lion in­tro­duc­tions back to iSi­man­gal­iso took place in De­cem­ber 2013 and 2014 re­spec­tively.

The first fam­ily of four lions - translo­cated from Tembe Ele­phant Park - were re­leased in De­cem­ber 2013 and com­prised an adult fe­male and three sub-adult off­spring. Their ar­rival cat­a­pulted iSi­man­gal­iso to ‘Big 7' sta­tus. This was fol­lowed by the coali­tion of two males (broth­ers) and three fe­males dur­ing the course of 2014. In or­der to slow down the breed­ing rate of the lions, the fe­males un­der­went par­tial hys­terec­tomies which is the re­moval of one horn of the uterus. Lions breed pro­lif­i­cally and this ac­tion should halve the num­ber of lit­ters ob­vi­at­ing the need for translo­ca­tions to other parks in the short-term. Since De­cem­ber 2013, three sets of cubs have swelled the ranks.

iSi­man­gal­iso now gen­er­ates some 7% of the prov­ince's tourism GDP and over 7 000 di­rect per­ma­nent tourism jobs.

All iSi­man­gal­iso's adult lions are fit­ted with satel­lite col­lars to mon­i­tor their move­ments for bi­o­log­i­cal and safety rea­sons. They are tracked daily by Park staff sup­ported by Wildlife Act vol­un­teers with the in­for­ma­tion feed­ing into Park man­age­ment.

Wild Dogs

One of the most ex­cit­ing sight­ings in the uMkhuze sec­tion of iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park is that of the en­dan­gered wild dog (or African Painted Dog). With an es­ti­mated 1400 fully grown adult dogs left glob­ally, the two packs that have been es­tab­lished in iSi­man­gal­iso's uMkhuze form a vi­tal part of South Africa's metapop­u­la­tion. A new lit­ter of 14 healthy pups has been spot­ted and pho­tographed in the last few days.

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