Motorist snaps elusive lion in Bulawayo suburb


A cellphone image of the lion taken by Ngqabutho Mpofu on Tuesday night (top). National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers track the lion spoor in Fortunes Gate, Bulawayo yesterday

Chronicle Reporter
A MOTORIST yesterday told of the moment he drove into the path of a lion – in a plush Bulawayo suburb.
Ngqabutho Mpofu and his girlfriend, Pamela, were driving through Fortunes Gate, east of the city, shortly after 9PM on Tuesday when the big cat – which has eluded game rangers for weeks – appeared from the hedges.

“Pamela was behind the wheel and she stopped the car,” Mpofu told Chronicle yesterday. “We were both scared but fascinated at the same time. She managed to take a couple of pictures with her phone before the lion disappeared into the tall grass. It all happened so fast.”

The sighting, along Old Esigodini Road, is barely two kilometres from the busy Leeside Shopping Centre – which was thankfully deserted at that hour.

Yesterday, Mpofu led a team of armed game rangers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to the scene of the sighting – but the king of the jungle was long gone.

The rangers, who reviewed Mpofu’s pictures of the lion, said it appeared emaciated which suggested that it was not feeding well. “It’s a telltale sign that this lion was kept in an enclosure, and it’s most probably failing to fend for itself in the wild,” said one of the rangers.

The lion is known to have killed a donkey and a cow – but that was a fortnight ago. Rangers also positively identified a lion’s spoor but lost the track.

Confusing reports have also been made about the sex of the big cat, but pictures supplied by Mpofu appeared to show a male lion without a well-pronounced mane. It appeared to be looking away, which the rangers said was normal when a lion comes into contact with bright lights.

A lion can cover 30km per night, the rangers said, and any sightings must be reported immediately.

The rangers began tracking the lion three weeks ago after residents of the city’s eastern suburbs called in to report several sightings.
Initial reports suggested the lion escaped from the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, some 30km south of Bulawayo, but officials there insisted that all their lions were accounted for.

Sightings have since been reported in Waterford, Burnside, Hope Fountain and now Fortunes Gate.

Last night, Parks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo said a decision had been taken to wind down the hunt for the lion – despite the latest sighting.

She said: “The public and residents of Bulawayo are hereby informed that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will be winding up the 24-hour search for the mysterious lion.

“Members of the public are informed   that they should carry out their duties  without fear.”

She said the decision followed a “careful assessment and evaluation of our search effort.”

An analysis of interviews with the public and the expected behaviour of the cat led them to “firmly believe that the animal is no  longer in the vicinity of the suburbs  and could have tracked back to its original home.”

Lack of evidence of a recent kill was a key factor in the decision.

“A lion is expected to kill for food or   perfect its art of killing. Livestock will be agitated if a lion is in the area. It’s not normal for a lion to go for more than four weeks without roaring.”

But she  insisted that residents should  report any sightings, adding: “We will continue to accept and react to any information provided to our office.”

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  • Squbu KaJubane

    “….it was not feeding well” comment is cause for concern.

    • julele

      a hungry lion is more deadly than a well fed lion.i am a tour guide. Vic F.

  • malalegqokile

    national parks is not doing its job properly how can the lion keep evading you . Why don’t you despatch a group of experienced game rangers both from the parks and private game parks. The longer you wait this animal is going to attack humans especially since where it is being seen there is no game. You need to send the rangers with the know how. From the look of things this lion has not yet attacked humans l think because when all is well it respects a human being but as hunger and loneliness strikes sooner or later it will attack humans. National parks you have not put all the effort, why haven’t you sent a helicopter to assist with aerial sightings lm not a game ranger but l feel you should be showing the necessary efforts at this point. There is a possibility you despatching rangers without much knowledge of what they are doing thereby risking the lives of people

    • malalegqokile

      l feel national parks rather than wind up we should be hearing you say you are now at an advanced stage of trekking and that you have despatched the cream of your rangers the ones whom you will also refer to their C.V.s of achievements. Also at this point we should also have heard of even the bringing into the scene of live animals like donkeys as a trap to bring it out of its hiding

      • Siziba

        uyobona lapho sihlibo, i suspect there is no ‘cream of the rangers’ left in service. Kungcono they approach amaprivate hunters to track this animal. Possibly reward them with it as a trophy since bengela imali to continue funding the search themselves!!!

        • hey

          from the look of things this lion seems to be staying at Chipangali even though the authorities there denied. Since they say it can travel for 30km in a night then there is a possibility of it returning to Chipangali outside the cages in the bush. The problem is if it eats a human being it is known to leave the skull and hands but since it is in a residential area the dogs will disturb this and pick and destroy remains.I also say national parks should have also used the same tactics they used for the one that escaped from the lion and cheater park they remained in position until it was caught now that it is Bulawayo they ignore

    • nhamodzenyika

      Dude at the rate things are in Zim. Our people resemble game now to this government. So no urgency there

  • George

    We have all seen the rangers in the Waterford area, they only search along the main road in vehicles & are “afraid” to venture deep in the bushes. This Washaya-Moyo is just clueless & appears confused, how can u wind down barely 24hrs after a sighting complete with pictures. We live in the lions roaming area and are dead scared, we cant move around at night any more, please be serious.

  • ngisemanxiweni akotheza

    you could be sending ‘amasalads’ who are afraid of even a fly. National Parks please bring in rangers from Hwange National Park who know what a lion is

    • adult

      officer commanding Bulawayo province please stamp your authority , summon the national parks officers, with the possibility of them being locked up for endangering the lives of the povo.

  • Siyehluleka

    WHY NOT SHARE YOUR CONTACT DETAILS INCASE WE COME ACROSS THE LION AND EASILY CALL YOU EXPERTS. By saying report its not enough Please encourage the residents to report immediately for your attention.

  • adult

    since national parks has failed the government needs to chip in and send soldiers to hunt the lion people are at risk the children will be attacked, the workers, whoever will be unfortunate will be killed by the lion

  • Angilugxobi koBulawayo

    I have postponed my visit to the city of Kings, until they find this loose monster angilugxobi koNtuthu.

    • zwelikabanzi

      Kiikikikiki ungabiligwala mfethu

  • Tsebanang

    Seriously all these weeks and you are still tracking down a lion,asonkukhu phela leyo

  • benjamin

    Winding down the search when the beast was spotted in a fairly populated
    area? I hope you spot it in your very own yard!!! Maybe that may give
    your nut a kick so that it starts reasoning straight again!!!

  • Hunter joe

    National parks have done there job !

  • Omo Gezani

    This is the problem you encounter when you employ unqualified people due to nepotism. These guys are not proper rangers, they just know somebody at the top and they got a job but are clueless as to what to do. In my home area,we are close to Gonarezhou game reserve and if a lion strays into our neighbourwood,a day is more than enough for us to put up snares and catch it or just kill it with bows and arrows. We call upon known experts in the area and before the day is over, I promise you that lion would have been dead meat! Xichangane hix’lungu.

  • Hunter joe

    There is no lion