A group of14 lions is on the loose near a mining community bordering South AfricasKruger National Park, officials said Friday, and warned members of the publicto be alert.
The lionshave been spotted roaming around the Foskor phosphate mine outside the town ofPhalaborwa on the western boundary of the famed wildlife park, which is fencedin.
It issuspected the big cats escaped from the park, said the government of thenorthern Limpopo province, which has allocated rangers to monitor the pridewhile officials decide where to send them.
Employeesat Foskor Mine and members of the public are hereby advised to be alert at alltimes, the provincial department of environment and tourism said in an onlinestatement.
It said ameeting of government and park officials had concluded that the lions must becaptured and released into the Kruger National Park.
But parkspokesman Ike Phaahla said this was not feasible, as the new arrivals willcontinually break out as other dominant lions will chase them out.
He addedthat any animal outside the park is the responsibility of the provincialauthority.
Until thematter is settled, Phaahla warned there is a danger to members of the publicwho are working in the area.
There isthe possibility of wildlife-human conflict, so people have to be careful, hetold SABC public television. We need to identify a park where they can betaken and establish their own area.
It was notclear how long the lions have been on the loose.
Earlier thisweek, a leopard killed a two-year-old boy inside a fenced-off staff compound inthe Kruger.
A team ofrangers hunted down two suspected leopards and shot them dead to avoid the riskof a repeat.
The parkcovers nearly two million hectares (4.9 million acres) and is home to over 500bird species and 147 mammal species.