(CBS NEWS) – Pictures from a national park in South Africa show a pride of lions appearing to nap in the middle of a road as much of the world has come to a halt over the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa has been on lockdown since March 25.
Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, has been tweeting photos and videos of animals roaming the park without the intrusion of tourists. One set of photos showed lions lounging on a vacant stretch of road.
“Kruger visitors that tourists do not normally seen,” the park tweeted earlier this week. “This lion pride are usually resident on Kempiana Contractual Park, an area Kruger tourists do not see. This afternoon they were lying on the tar road just outside of Orpen Rest Camp.”
Ike Phaahla, a spokesperson for the park, told CBS News on Friday that while the overall behavior of animals hasn’t changed, he said, lions are taking advantage of the fact that there are fewer humans around.
“They are nocturnal animals and it is not unusual for them to sleep during the day, what is unusual is the utilisation of the tarred road because normally if there is traffic, they would not be using the tarred road,” Phaahla said.
Ranger Richard Sowry, whose duties are considered an essential service during the lockdown, took the photo from his vehicle.
“Lions are used to people in vehicles,” he told the BBC. “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.”
In another post by Kruger, wild dogs and lions can be seen ambling through a golf course.
However, as these animals and other wildlife around the world enjoy the lack of human interference, there’s mounting fear that endangered species could be more at risk from poachers during the pandemic, CBS News foreign correspondent Deborah Patta reports.
National stay-at-home orders, travel bans and other measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have severely constricted Africa’s $39 billion tourism industry — business that also helps fund wildlife conservation across the continent.
A South African rhino rescue organization said it has responded to at least one poaching incident every day since the country went into lockdown. In neighboring Botswana — usually one of the most protected places for wildlife — there have been at least six rhinos poached since the country closed its borders.
However, while other parts of South Africa have seen an increase in poaching, that hasn’t been the case for Kruger National Park, Patta reports.