Photo courtesy of News24.com
The Karoo National park has two new residents as of Thursday 7th February 2013. Two new male lions have been introduced to the park as part of a programme to limit the inbreeding amongst the current lion population. The new three year old male lions are called Niklaas and Witwarm and have been transferred from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.
It’s only three years since an initial batch of lions, taken from Addo National Elephant Park, were introduced into the park. The lions are an important ecological piece in the jigsaw puzzle for the park as they are allowed to hunt and control the population of herbivores which currently need to be culled to ensure numbers don’t get out of control. Over time it is expected that these two younger males will gain control of the current prides as the existing male lions get too old and effectively have to retire their roles as pride leaders.
The Karoo National Park is 75,000 hectares in size and lies just outside Beaufort West and is one of the biggest attractions in the Central Karoo region. From Cape Town it’s about a 5 hour drive to the park and the gates are open from 05h00 to 22h00 but the reception desk is only open from 07h00 to 19h00. Travelling from Cape Town you will need to follow the main N1 road and Karoo National park is just off this road before you get to Beaufort West.
The park is best explored with your own 4×4 vehicle as there are a number of dedicated 4×4 trails like the Klipspringer Pass which is very scenic. If you want you can pay for a guided game drive. The park offers morning (2 to 3 hours) and night (1.5 hours) drives but you will need a minimum of four people to do this. Prices range from R196 for adults on the morning drive and R160 for adults on the night drive. If you are up for a walk then there are free guided walks that will show you the amazing diversity of this Karoo Park. Walks vary from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours but check in advance to make sure they have guides available.
The low levels of rainfall in the park create an almost desert-like landscape punctuated by the Nuweveld Mountains. The network of 4×4 trails are just waiting for you to explore them and when you are ready for a rest check out one of their nice picnic spots like the Bulkraal picnic spot where you can braai or even have a swim.
Although there are only a few lions in the park the adult male lions are tagged so the rangers can track them at all times. Tagging the lions also helps the rangers understand where they like to eat and the habitat in which they spend most of their time. The original set of lions introduced into the park has settled down well and have already produced cubs.
The park is home to two different types of Zebra; the Burchell and the Cape Mountain Zebra. Naturally there are lots of Springbok which the lions are now helping to keep in check. Other animals you will see in the park include Klipspringer, Kudu and Red Hartebeest.