South African lion escapes from national park _ again

AP News
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Posted: Mar 29, 2016 11:56 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Last year, a South African lion earned the nickname "Spook" — "Ghost" in the Afrikaans language — after it escaped from a national park and eluded searchers for more than three weeks. Now Spook has broken out again.

A helicopter on Tuesday searched for the male lion, which was fitted with a satellite tracking collar after last year's escape from Karoo National Park and should be easier to trace this time, park spokeswoman Fayroush Ludick said.

The lion, which escaped overnight Sunday, has become a "problem animal" and will be killed because he knows how to get out of the park and could endanger people, Ludick said.

"It's a decision that wasn't taken lightly," she said.

Spook killed a cow on Monday and is believed to be about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside the park's boundary, according to Ludick.

The lion ranged widely in the arid, sparsely populated area in his last escape, covering about 185 miles (300 kilometers). He remained at large despite a big search effort that included a helicopter and trackers on foot. He killed a number of sheep and a kudu antelope, and was eventually darted on the side of a mountain by a wildlife veterinarian in a helicopter.

During the 2015 escape, searchers initially only found paw prints of the lion and dubbed it "Spook" because of its seeming ability to stay one step ahead of them. Some South African media outlets called the lion "Sylvester."

In both breakouts, Spook slipped under a fence where rain had washed away soil.

The Karoo park has about a dozen lions. Lions were released there in 2010 after an absence of almost 170 years from the area. Hunters had wiped out the lion population in the 19th century.

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