03/06/2007 17:57 - (SA)
Maryna van Wyk
Hertzogville - In what is possibly a first, fully-grown lions are being used as security guards by farmers to patrol the perimeters of their farm houses at night.
A few Free State farmers have surrounded their homes with fences to provide a cordoned-off area patrolled by their feline crime-fighters.
Booms come down at sunset to close the farmstead off from the outside world.
Marius Erwee, 33, is one of the pioneers in the use of lion-hearted "security guards" at Lushof farm near Hertzogville.
He and his wife, Valerie, have four lions that roam around in camps next to the house and garden in the daytime.
'Can't feel any safer'
When the last vehicle is in at night, the booms are lifted to provide access to the full area, and the night patrol begins.
Meat is used to lure the lions back inside the camps in the mornings.
"One can't feel safer than this, because I know no one can get in," says Valerie.
She has a three-month-old boy and is alone on the farm sometimes while Marius entertains visitors at their game farm between Boshoff and Kimberley.
Erwee says they can even leave the doors open in the summer heat.
The Erwees have another four lions for breeding purposes at a nearby camp, and three cubs at home that he is raising by hand.
Has frightening roar
His mother and father, Dawie and Bessie Erwee, live on Helena farm, about a kilometre away.
They have two white lions, a male and a female, guarding their homestead 24/7.
Apparently the white male, Oubaas, packs a roar that would see off any possible intruders, at high speed.