Woman injured as lions and rhinos rampage across towns after escaping Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park
KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA: Lions, rhinos, and elephants, among other dangerous species, escaped in August from a national wildlife park in South Africa. Six lions, four elephants, two white rhinos, one buffalo, one black rhino, and a pack of African wild dogs are believed to have escaped from Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, which is located about 170 miles north of Durban over the course of several weeks. Several cow carcasses have been found since the escapes. A 45-year-old woman named Zandile Mbhele was injured by one of the escaped rhinos in mid-August as it rampaged through her town, damaging the fences of six nearby homes in the process.
The park declared in a statement that it will pay for Mbhele's medical expenses as well as the replacement of the fencing the rhino broke. The park, which has a total area of around 237,000 acres, is believed to have been Shaka Zulu's early 19th-century royal hunting grounds. One of the world's largest herds of endangered white rhinos can be found there, along with roughly 120 lions. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo in a statement, "Ezemvelo managed to re-capture one rhino on Thursday, 11 August 2022. The second rhino...had been shot at by one community member.”
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is a governmental organization that maintains wildlife conservation areas. The park believes that the animals must have discovered a way to scale its perimeter barrier. Mntambo said, "There is an opening at the fence caused by illegal soil mining. We suspect that the lions managed to escape through a hole in that fence." According to Luke Dollar, program director for National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative, wild animals, especially lions, entering human areas can be very dangerous to people nearby.
The Sun UK reported that after waiting weeks for the park to replace the hole, residents from the Okhukho and Nqulwane communities decided to fix the fence out of fear that the dangerous animals might escape into the wild close to their houses. South Africa's News24 reported that angry residents protested the escapes earlier in August by storming into the staff housing, stealing a number of things, and setting a security building on fire.
KZN Wildlife Conservation Board Chair appeals to HiP Community structures to support Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in resolving the issues of animal escape which results in the loss of community livestock.— EZEMVELO KZNWildlife (@EZEMVELOKZNWild) August 16, 2022
The Chairperson will be visiting the iMfolozi river crossing used by two rhinos pic.twitter.com/pIv6lAeSf4
Ezemvelo's acting CEO, Ntsikelelo Dlulane, in a statement, "We request people that have issues with Ezemvelo to engage us instead of protesting. I have ensured that most of the resolutions adopted during the community meeting...are implemented. The areas where we have not started repairing the fence are remote areas that are not easily accessible by vehicles delivering the material. We have put a plan to attend to these areas and we appeal to the community to afford us some time. I also hope that those who took items belonging to our Field Rangers will return them to us."
Meanwhile, this isn't the first time that animals have escaped from wildlife reserves in South Africa. In 2019, 14 lions escaped from Kruger National Park.