Does an African wild lion named Sylvester owe his life being spared to Facebook and, in some small way, to a sanctuary in the middle of Minnesota?

We’ve seen the power of social media in so many areas of unrest around the world. For The Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota, their Facebook page has become a huge way of helping save lives worldwide, too.


Over the past couple of years, The Wildcat Sanctuary’s built up nearly three million Facebook fans in over 46 countries. But lately, Facebook’s changed dramatically, and advertising revenue is what’s driving their business model. For non-profits like The Wildcat Sanctuary, not paying for Facebook advertising and not having a budget for it, that means the number of people reached with their daily posts has dropped to less than one percent of their fan base.

But, that one percent can still be a highly motivated group of followers!  Take Sylvester’s story as a great example.

When news broke that South African National Parks was sending out a helicopter to track and kill Sylvester, a radio-collared wild lion that had broken out of the protected park area for the second time in a year, The Wildcat Sanctuary shared it on their Facebook page.

The moment Sylvester was recaptured.




The sanctuary alerted followers about the best action they could take to make a difference. Contact information was provided for park officials, local African big cat sanctuaries who might be able to help, as well as an advocacy page the sanctuary set up long ago with resources for starting petitions, etc.

Facebook instantly lit up with action to save Sylvester! People want to help, they just need to know how. Over 1,000 commenters started signing and sharing petitions and contacting authorities and, within 24 hours, South African National Parks announced the kill order had been temporarily lifted. Authorities are now meeting with those who’ve stepped up to offer assistance, thanks to this worldwide public outcry.

Many non-profits may be tempted to give up on Facebook, now that it’s no longer the “free ride” it’s always been. But, for The Wildcat Sanctuary, it’s always been about raising awareness, educating masses, and empowering others with the tools they need to help animals in need worldwide.


Sylvester’s story proved that, with only one-percent taking action, they can be inspired to do great things.  Social media continues to be such a critical tool in saving wildlife worldwide, and one non-profit should stay committed to using.

Read more about Sylvester the Lion’s true story as provided by Drakenstein Lion Park:





In 2010, a pride of eight lions from the Addo National Park were released into the Karoo National Park. The pride consisted of two adult males, two adult females and four cubs.


In 2013, Karoo National Park introduced an additional two young male lions into the Park, citing the need to “prevent inbreeding” as their motivation.

In three short years inbreeding should not have been a concern, the real motivation was probably that the Karoo National Park realized that lions meant more visitors; more visitors meant more money. An official is also cited as saying that the dark maned Kalahari lions would be an added attraction.

The introduction of two sub-adult males into an environment where an established pride existed with two adult males ruling the territory was ill-conceived. There was no possible way, in the short or medium term, these two newly introduced sub-adult males would have any impact on the genetic makeup of the existing pride.

The reality is that the two sub-adult males became targets of the resident pride and its two adult males and were continuously and relentlessly pursued.

In June 2015, Sylvester the lion made headlines by escaping the Park and being on the run for three weeks. The story fed to the public was a fencing issue, but the real truth was that Sylvester, being pursued relentlessly, saw escape as his only option to survival.

After Sylvester’s recapture, he was placed in a boma, where he remained until three days prior to his most recent escape bid.

At around the same time of his first escape (June 2015), the Karoo National Park, despite the issues existing between Sylvester and the resident pride, decided they needed, even more, lions! A male and female lion where imported from Marekela and placed in the boma with Sylvester! The obvious social issues that ensued resulted in Park management removing the female from Sylvester and the Marekela male, in the hope that these two males would bond.

Prior to his release from the boma, Sylvester and the Marekela male where fitted with radio collars. The Marekela male did not survive what is a relatively safe and simple procedure and never woke up from the anesthetic.

Before his release from the boma, after 10 months of safety from the resident pride males, Sylvester, and the Marekela male were fitted with radio collars. The Marekela male did not survive what is a relatively safe and simple procedure and never woke up from the anesthetic.

Sylvester was released from the boma November 27, 2015, and later he escaped, but this time he has been labelled a “problem animal” and a “threat to humans.”

The claim that Sylvester is a threat to humans is unfounded and without any basis in fact.

The Karoo National Park’s management plan for lion is flawed, without scientific basis and screams incompetence. Their reasoning for adding lions to an area with an established pride is flawed and their methods even more so.

Sylvester is not a problem lion, he is the victim of problem management.

UPDATE 3/31/2016 : According to reports, The South African National Parks (SANParks) search team has successfully darted Sylvester‚ outside Beaufort West.

Sylvester’s fate is not yet decided‚ SANParks said‚ following a massive public outcry over its threat to euthanize the lion because it has twice escaped from the park in less than a year. “The lion will be kept in the park in a boma until a final decision is reached on its future‚” Mkutshulwa said.  “At this point we are still considering a range of options available to us. One of them being to return him to the park and strengthen areas that need to be strengthened to keep him inside the park.”  SANParks

All image source: SanParks