They may have enjoyed their time on the wild side, but for five lions who escaped from the Kruger National Park last week, home is where the heart is.
At a SanParks briefing on Wednesday, officials said that four of the five lions have since returned to the park. While one is still missing, it is believed that the final runaway had most likely also returned to the park.
SanParks acting managing executive of conservation services who is also the head of scientific services, Danie Pienaar said it was not a new phenomenon for animals to escape from the park. However, in the case of the five lions, the animals were far more visible as they were spotted next to the N4.
He said it was obvious that the five male lions all aged between four and five were relatively tame because of the way they reacted to tourists and vehicles.
Pienaar said the lions had also not left the park because they felt threatened or were evicted from their pride. The lions probably managed to escape because they were simply wandering around, he said.
Pienaar said because the lions were not habitual offenders and did not behave like animals who had been away from the park for a while, the decision was taken to move them back to the park after they were captured.
Habitual offenders, who kill livestock or act is if they have been harassed, are put down, Pienaar said.
Because the lions were fairly tame, it was not very difficult for rangers to catch them and escort them back into the park.
As for the fifth missing lion, Pienaar said it was likely he had returned to the park to find his "mates".
"Where they were on the N4 is close to the Komati river, which is a stone's throw from the Kruger fence so he probably just walked back, cause he might have heard his mates roaring on the inside, so in all likelihood he found his way back," said Pienaar.
SANPark spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said they are still receiving false alarms that people have spotted the fifth lion, but there has still been no positive sighting.
He said when there has been a positive sighting and confirmation from the ranger that the fifth lion's whereabouts are known, they would send out an update.