The first human attack by the lions that have been on the loose near Vryheid for months was reported over the weekend, reports Vryheid Herald.
A 27-year-old man received treatment at Vryheid Hospital after being bitten by 2 lions in the Gluckstad area near the Mawana Game Reserve on Friday evening.
Zululand cluster SAPS communications officer Captain Nkosie Gwala confirmed that the man had puncture holes where the lion’s teeth had penetrated his side, and said he was fortunate that no flesh had been torn from his body or major organs pierced.
“There were two sets of lion prints discovered where the incident took place,” said Captain Gwala, which seems to validate reports from farm workers who said they had spotted two lions wandering together.
The Vryheid Herald reported on the lions in September when a truck driver told police that the lions crossed the road in front of him near Hennies Garage in Gluckstad.
Residents in the area reported that the lions had been spotted for the first time in July, and farmers claimed that they had lost several heads of cattle due to lion attacks.
Following the report, police, professional hunters, members of the Vryheid farming community and officials from Ezemvelo searched for the lions, but to no avail and some even suspected that the lions may not even exist.
Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo, who initially speculated that the truck driver may have seen a leopard, wild dog or some another animal, conceded that there is now sufficient evidence to prove that there are lions on the loose near Vryheid.
“We have investigated and we also interviewed the victim and we do admit that this looks like a lion attack. We have also seen the lion tracks where the attack took place. We are very concerned because lions would usually avoid humans and are only inclined to attack a person if they feel cornered,” said Mr Mntambo.
He went on to urge anyone who spots the lions to contact Ezemvelo conservation officer Jabulani Biyela on 082 708 8860 as a matter of urgency.
Residents can also contact Gluckstad station commander, Captain Karl Erasmus on 034 952 2106 / 107 or on 082 419 6738.
“The victim of the lion attack got away by quickly climbing over a fence, when the lion opened its mouth. Perhaps the lions got a fright or maybe they were not hungry enough to pursue him, but once he was on the other side of the fence, the lions left him alone and continued on their path.
“I am concerned that the lions may have started to hunt people as prey and that someone could be seriously hurt or killed if the lions are not found soon,” said Captain Erasmus.
“It is very important that residents contact us immediately after a sighting, while there is still a chance we may find them in that area. It doesn’t help to contact us a long time after a sighting, because the lions would have moved on from there and it becomes impossible to find them.”
Farmer Christo Carolus, who was part of the search for the lions when they were spotted in September, said the lions were more likely to stay away from people than pursue them, but warned residents in the area to exercise caution.