The lions that were spotted around the premises of the Foskor mine in Phalaborwa did not escape from the Kruger National Park. National and some local media outlets sensationalised a pride of around 14 lions that were spotted in the vicinity of the mining community as having escaped from the Kruger.
SANParks have denied this statement saying that the 14 lions formed part of a roaming pride which has not escaped from either the Kruger National Park, or any of the adjacent private reserves. It is believed that this pride has been residing in the Phalaborwa area for a number of years and that they seem to move along the Selati River system which is most likely why they have always been spotted near the premises of Foskor or Palabora mining companies.
It is because of this fact that SANParks have cautioned it would be unwise to introduce these lions into the existing lion population as prides are extremely territorial. The disease status of these lions are also not known and the risk should therefore be avoided.
“Those lions originate from the Grietjie-area which now forms part of the Kruger’s property,” said one long-time resident of Phalaborwa. “There have always been lions and other wild animals in the Phalaborwa area which is part of what makes our town so unique. Those of us who have lived here our entire lives know and love this aspect of living here.”
Elephants, hippos and even the occasional leopard are regular sights in Phalaborwa. There have been a number of incidents related to wild animal and human confrontation in the past too. In October of 1998, a German tourist, Rita Hahn, was killed instantly by an elephant bull while playing golf with her daughter at the Hans Merensky Country Club.
In March 2005 a security guard was mauled by lions near the Kruger National Park gate in Phalaborwa, and his remains discovered near the Kruger Park Spar complex the following morning. During the last three decades there have been many reports of pets disappearing from residential properties near the Hendrik van Eck (now Kruger Park) airfield. In fact, it was finally discovered in the late nineties that a leopard had made his home in the area and the pets were easy prey.