All the deer in the Hamptons, which until now have caused so much trouble running into cars, eating gardens and shrubbery and spreading Lyme disease, are now gone, eaten in a “natural” way by the African lions imported from South Africa to do the deed. But now there seems to be what might be a troublesome glitch in the situation.
As everyone knows, the 26 lions, all supposedly males, were flown to East Hampton by cargo plane in mid-December by billionaire Hans Van der Klerk, a resident of South Africa, who then housed them in his 17 -car garage at his oceanfront Bridgehampton estate. There his workers threw raw meat into the garage every day until finally, this past Monday, he let them out two by two into rented limousines which took them to various woods all around the Hamptons.
The deer feast, for that is what it was, was supposed to last for 10 days during which time, with all the local residents staying indoors, these ferocious beasts would do their job. After that time, with their stomachs distended and with them lying asleep and snoring by the roadsides, they would be rounded up by handlers and flown back to South Africa.
The feast did not last 10 days, however. It was all over by Tuesday at noon. And so, with the job done “as Mother Nature might have done it” in just 28 hours, there was no further problem and the local residents were able to come out very early. As Mr. Van der Klerk said when, at his own expense, he brought them here, the planned hunt by Department of Agriculture sharpshooters scheduled for February, should not be necessary. It was an interference with Mother Nature, an unnecessary taxpayer expense, and with the high powered rifles they used a dangerous way to kill 3,000 deer. He brought the lions at his own expense. And the job is done. Except that now we have received word from South Africa that when the plane with the lions arrived at the Transvaal International Airport, only 24 lions got off the plane, not 26.
“I received word in a phone call directly from Hans Van der Klerk himself,” said Hamptons Mayor James Hamilton at his latest press conference in front of Town Hall this morning. “This is the first time I have talked to him directly. In the past he has had aides speak to me. So I knew it must be important. He did seem concerned.”
“No one should panic,” the mayor continued. “We cannot completely confirm that the two lions that did not arrive in South Africa are still here. It is possible they escaped during the unloading in the Transvaal, or perhaps they slipped open the cargo door over the Atlantic and two accidentally fell into the ocean.”
There is some evidence that these two lions are still here, however. According to the mayor, the loading of the lions onto the airplane at East Hampton Airport involved getting the beasts to run down a narrow chute from the limousines that were used to round them up – two by two – go across the tarmac and then up into the cargo plane, hurried along the path by a team of ranch hands from the Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk waving their hats and shouting “Hi-Yah!” But it was dark. And the next day, Wednesday, long after the cargo plane had left, airport employees noticed two bloody computer chips on the tarmac and brought them into the airport manager’s office. Nobody thought anything of it at the time, but when it was learned that only 24 lions got off the plane, this became a concern. Aides of Van der Klerk went to the airport and examined the chips today, Thursday morning, and indeed they have confirmed that they were identical to those used in the lions that had been brought here.
“These are very high tech chips,” said the mayor. “They send out a location signal so you can find the lions. That’s how we were able to round them all up. And also, each one gives a different signal, like a fingerprint, which can identify which animal they came from. They came from Nero and Rebecca.”
The mayor took questions.
“Are you saying,” one reporter asked, “that each of these lions gnawed off the chip of the other lion?”
“We can’t say that is a definite.”
“Weren’t we told earlier that these were all male lions?” another reporter asked.
“Yes. But apparently they were not all males, if one of them was named Rebecca.”
“The airport is surrounded by an 8-foot-high deer fence,” another reporter said. “Would that mean the lions are still on the airport grounds?”
“We hope to find out. Nobody thinks they can leap up eight feet. But they have claws and like any cats, they can climb. At the present time, we are searching the airport grounds, particularly the fences to see if anything is amiss.”
“Who is doing the searching?”
“In the absence of the airport staff—the airport is closed at the present time because the staff, cowards that they are, all fled when they heard the news—the searching is being done by the National Guard carrying standard military rifles and grenades, and accompanied by lion-sniffing dogs. But please do not panic.”
“There is only the most remote possible danger from these lions. They are full of deer meat for one thing. We don’t even know for sure that they are here. There are only two of them so the odds of any one person seeing them are low. And of course, if they are still here, they are probably on the airport grounds. And when we have them rounded up, which I expect will happen later today, we will re-open the airport and, just to reassure everybody, I will have a press conference in front of the main entrance to the airport tomorrow at noon.”
“Are the lions just going to be rounded up? Not shot on sight?”
“Absolutely not shot on sight. Here in America, an African lion is a rarity. It is on the endangered species list in North America. If you see one, you can be arrested if you kill it.”
“How long would it take before Rebecca has cubs?” a reporter asked.
“No more questions,” the mayor said.