Lions nap on road during South African lockdown

17 Apr 2020 | by Diana Kendall

Sooner or later animals were going to notice that the humans had disappeared and in South Africa's Kruger National Park lions have been taking advantage of this situation a, like other wildlife parks, Kruger has been shut since 25 March as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

Lions nap on road during South African lockdown

Big cats would usually only be seen by rangers on the roads by night.

Park ranger Richard Sowry was out on patrol on Wednesday when he snapped a pride sleeping on a road which would normally be busy with tourists.

As a ranger in one of Africa's largest game reserves, Mr Sowry performs an essential service and continues to work during the lockdown, checking on the wildlife and guarding against poachers.

Lions Nap On Road During Quarantine In South Africa

While driving near Orpen Rest Camp on Wednesday afternoon, he spotted the lions on the road ahead and pulled up just five metres (5.5 yards) away to look at the unusual phenomenon.

As he took photos with his mobile phone, the lions did not seem bothered, most of them apparently fast asleep.

"Lions are used to people in vehicles," he explained. "All animals have much more of an instinctive fear of people on foot, so if I had walked up they would never have allowed me to get so close."

The oldest lioness in the pride is about 14, "which is very old for a lioness", so they are used to seeing vehicles.

Lions Nap On Road During Quarantine In South Africa

Normally Mr Sowry would only see lions sleeping on the park's roads on colder nights in the winter, when the tar retains quite a lot of heat.

As for the lions, he adds, "normally they would be in the bushes because of the traffic but they are very smart and now they are enjoying the freedom of the park without us".

But why anyway, you might ask, would lions prefer tarmac to the softness of grass?

Probably for the simple reason that it had been raining on Tuesday night and, as Mr Phaala explained, "The tar was drier than the grass at the time - big cats and water don't mix."

What rangers do not want, however, is for lions to start thinking that roads are a safe place just because they are now so still.

These quiet times have also seen lions as well as wild dogs venturing on to a golf course in the park but otherwise Mr Sowry does not think that the lockdown has had any major effect on the animals' behaviour yet.

Lions Nap On Road During Quarantine In South Africa