Like a real life Animal Planet drama, the saga of South Africa’s Sylvester the Lion swept the hearts of millions across social media.
It all started last summer when Sylvester escaped from Karoo National Park in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. Park officials believed he escaped through a hole under a fence. Sylvester went on a three week, 180 mile journey, killing plenty of sheep along the way, before rangers spotted him napping and were able to recapture him. Back to Karoo he went.
Last month Sylvester managed to pull off an escape again, once again by slipping through a fence, likely to get away from threatening males. Luckily he was wearing a tracking collar this time, and guides were able to tranquilize him and bring him back. But when the park rangers threatened to euthanize Sylvester, social media came to the regal lion’s rescue, with animal conservation groups leading the charge. #SaveSylvester became a trending hashtag on Twitter, and animal welfare group Spots and Stripes Conservation offered to help move the lion to somewhere safer. On Facebook, the group shared, “Given the plight of the wild lion in Africa the thought of a prime virile and valuable wild male lion for future populations needlessly falling to the bullet is not just astounding but unbelievable.” Around the world, wildlife enthusiasts chimed in with support for Sylvester.
It seems rangers have taken the public outcry to heart, with Sylvester being rehoused in a different national park instead of being euthanized. Now Sylvester will have the chance to become an alpha male in his new environment at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape province. He’s now acclimating to a large 494-acre wildlife enclosure with two females, in the hopes that he can learn to become the dominant male. Park officials hope this will encourage him to repopulate the endangered species, and not try to escape again.
Lions are an iconic part of South Africa’s rich natural history, so it’s nice to see social media efforts having a real effect on keeping the pride alive.