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Lions nap on road closed to tourists during lockdown in South Africa

Kruger National Park has been closed since 25 March after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown

Jack Rathborn
Friday 17 April 2020 18:36 BST
Lions have enjoyed less harassment since the lockdown in South Africa
Lions have enjoyed less harassment since the lockdown in South Africa (Richard Sowry/Kruger National Park)

Amid the chaos inflicted on the world by the coronavirus pandemic, lions are currently enjoying a rare moment of tranquillity in one of South Africa’s largest game reserves.

Tourism has been hit hard by Covid-19 forcing Kruger National Park to shut since 25 March as part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown to reduce the spread of the virus in in South Africa.

But now a pride of lions has been caught enjoying their peaceful surroundings, soaking up the sun in the middle of a road.

Ranger Richard Sowry shared a series of revealing pictures, capturing the animals napping in the shade beneath the long, wispy grass.

“Kruger visitors that tourists do not normally see,” wrote the national park on Twitter. “This lion pride are usually resident on Kempiana Contractual Park, an area Kruger tourists do not see.

The lions enjoy a moment of peace on the road in Kruger National Park (Richard Sowry/Kruger National Park)

“This afternoon they were lying on the tar road just outside of Orpen Rest Camp.”

As well as less harassment from inquisitive tourists, the lockdown may see lions, as well as other predators, start to enjoy greater success while hunting, according Dr Bettine van Vuuren, Professor of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg.

“The benefits to the animals, especially larger, charismatic animals such as lions, which typically attract much more attention, is high: they now have less or no people parking close to them when they come close to the roads,” Professor Van Vuuren tells The Independent. “Often tourism, when it comes to these larger, charismatic animals, borders on harassment.

“And when animals hunt close to the road, tourists may actually negatively impact on their kill success in terms of the number of times they hunt compared with their success rate.

Kruger National Park has been shut since 25 March (Richard Sowry/Kruger National Park)

“Although the negative of this is of course centred on the financial loss that South African National Parks (SANParks) will incur at this time. They depend on financial income from tourism, both day visitors and people staying in the park, in order to manage and run their parks.”

While visitors remain banned, SANParks confirmed in a statement​ that food delivery, fuel provision, security and emergency services as well as wildlife crime operations continue to operate.

SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said: “We would like to thank the public for their on-going support in line with government’s strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID 19, we all have an obligation to flatten the curve.”

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