A runaway lioness is roaming South Africa’s countryside where it has been spotted on a sugarcane farm and by passengers on a bus, a parks authority said Friday.
“It’s been seen twice,” said Musa Mntambo, spokesman for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which oversees public reserves in the eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
A woman working on a sugarcane plantation came face to face with the big cat on Monday.
“It made some noise — that’s why she then saw the lion and she retreated. It didn’t attack her,” Mntambo told AFP.
People travelling on a bus along a dirt road through a rural area with scattered homes also reported a sighting.
“From the bus, they claimed to have seen the lion from a distance,” Mntambo said. “It is the same lion.”
Spoor was found near the sugarcane farm that resembles that of a lion, but fresh traces have yet to be found.
The lion’s origins are not known but the nearest reserve with lions is the 96,000 hectare (237, 221 acres) Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
The king of the jungle is found in fenced off mega game reserves — home to the continent’s “big five” of lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and buffalo — but the rare escapee occasionally breaks out.
Exotic pets and commercially farmed wildlife have also caused havoc in the past, with around 15,000 crocodiles escaping from a ranch in January.
In 2010, a pet tiger made headlines after going on the run and sparking a manhunt. The city of Cape Town has also had a number of runaway hippos.
Mntambo said the lioness would be scared of human beings and was likely to hide and not to attack. However it might do so if it felt under threat.
“All animals are dangerous, it depends how you come into contact with him,” he said.
The parks authority said it is now waiting for any tip-offs of sightings from locals.