Back in December of 2013, South African billionaire and Bridgehampton homeowner Hans Van der Klerk released 26 lions to hunt deer in the Hamptons wilds. Occurring right around the time a controversial deer cull was under debate, the move caused absolute panic in the Hamptons and interest worldwide.
In honor of this blockbuster story, and to celebrate the first anniversary of the great Hamptons Lions scandal, DansPapers.com has created a special “I Survived the Hamptons Lions” T-shirt (see photo below). This exclusive yellow tee will only be available for a limited time in our Zazzle shop here: Dan’s Papers
Now let’s look back it this fascinating story, day by day, as events unfolded.
December 19, 2013 – Lions Released to Deal with Hamptons Deer Problems
Frustrated with the growing East End deer population and its destruction of his lawn and hedgerows, Van der Klerk was desperate to solve the problem, but federal sharpshooters were out of the question. As he said, “I will not allow anyone I don’t know on my property.” Instead, the billionaire looked toward his home country and the graceful predators that could easily excise any pesky deer from the grounds of his estate. Finding no laws on the books to deter him, Van der Klerk secured 26 lions for release into the wild. He estimated the deer problem would be over within 10 days. “This is mother nature at work.” He delayed the release until that Monday, December 23, and urged locals to stay indoors from that date until January 8, while the lions were loose.
Fear and panic ensued as readers posted comments, such as, “WTF, is this true? Releasing Lions out in public, this is insane. How can this man do this legally when families and pets are involved? What if the police do not see all the lions and they wander into Brookhaven? I am freaking out right now,” and “Just when we thought all we had to worry about was deer ticks, car accidents, and devoured landscaping. What an insane public policy! Roar, lion, roar.” [Comments edited for grammar and spelling] Read the full story here.
Dec. 21, 2013 – Breaking News: It’s Official, Sharpshooters Coming to Hamptons, Fate of Lions and Deer Discussed
Hamptons mayor James Hamilton held a news conference to announce that the Hamptons would indeed fund federal sharpshooters to cull the deer herd. Hamilton said the shooters would kill 3,000 deer during the month of February. During the press conference, the mayor also addressed Van der Klerk’s lions, noting that he respected the billionaire and his right to lawfully release lions, But, the mayor added, “…our police department is standing by if any of his lions cause any injuries or deaths to humans. So are our paramedic crews. Just remember, if you see a lion, make no quick movements or threatening noises, show your peaceful intentions by only looking at the ground, not into the lion’s eyes, and just slowly try to creep away backwards. Then, with your cell phone, dial 911. But don’t let the lion see you do it.” Read the full story here.
Dec. 30, 2013 – Map: Where Exactly Lions Are Being Released in the Hamptons
After a one-week postponement for the Christmas holiday, Van der Klerk’s much-anticipated, and feared, release was scheduled for December 31. On the day of the release, the Dan’s Papers Cartography Team published a map detailing lion drop off locations around the East End and the number of lions to be released at each one. In the post’s Comments section, one DansPapers.com reader noted, “I am very concerned about this; my dog looks like a deer. Will they eat her? She is pregnant. Who will reimburse me for the puppies I was going to sell?” Another outraged citizen added (in all caps for emphasis), “THE DEC WOULD NEVER ALLOW SUCH A THING .AND YOU MUST HAVE A DANGEROUS WILDLIFE LIC[ense]. ALSO PREPARE A LOT OF BODY BAGS FOR THE LOCALS THAT WILL BE EATEN.” Read the full story here.
Dec. 31, 2013 – Lions Eat Deer in the Hamptons; Animal Handler Dies
DansPapers.com reported on New Year’s Eve Day that the 26 South African lions were released into the woods of the Hamptons the previous morning, and by the next day, had eaten almost 3,000 deer that had been terrorizing this community, frightening people, crashing into cars, causing Lyme disease and eating vegetable gardens and landscaping everywhere. The lions, we reported, had already been rounded up and returned to Africa. Mayor Hamilton said the lions worked much more quickly than anyone had anticipated, and the local police had helped round them up for transport, first in limousines and then in planes back to Africa. The mayor attributed the lions’ particularly voracious state to extreme hunger caused by the delayed release. “He had food for them for just the four days I’m told. And after that, they were so hungry, they ate two Jaguars, a Bentley and one of the handlers. This made them very sick. And being sick made them even wilder. Monday came. By that time, the lions were famished. They were ready to go,” Hamilton said. Read the full story here.
Dec. 31, 2013 – Hamptons Lions: The Video Evidence
After days of arguments over the veracity of the entire lions story, this video, filmed on Hans Van der Klerk’s estate in Bridgehampton in the wee hours of the morning of December 31, surfaced as proof of the Hamptons lions’ existence. The videographer captures footage of lion fur caught on bushes, strange truck activity on the estate grounds at a weirdly late hour and, most compelling, some terrifying roars, before he turns heel and runs for his life. Read the full story here.
January 2, 2014 – Two Lions Unaccounted for, May Be Loose in the Hamptons
The unsettling news broke that two of Van der Klerk’s 26 lions didn’t make it back to South Africa and could still be in the wild on the East End. “No one should panic,” the Mayor Hamilton said. “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.” Later, two bloody tracking chips were found at East Hampton Airport, where the lions were loaded on to the plane back to Africa. The mayor admitted the possibility that the lions may have gnawed the chips off each other’s bodies and made a break for it. It was dark, reports explained. In the event the lions were here, Mayor Hamilton said they could not be shot on site and anyone who did so would be arrested. Read the full story here.
In a story about federal sharpshooters coming to the Hamptons, Dan Rattiner argued that the move would be costly and pointless because Van der Klerk’s lions already did the job. The story also revealed that the two missing lions were found dead in the woods, eaten alive by a dangerous new breed of wily and highly intelligent deer. These deadly deer survived the lions’ bloody rampage using their alarming wit and prowess. Now they could be seeking vengeance. Read the full story here.
March 1, 2014 – Cubbens Born in East Hampton After Lion Mates with House Cat
In an odd related story, months after the lions’ release and return, a local woman, Ms. Ethel Abernathy of East Hampton, found her large, 5-year old house cat Missy Pants has given birth to four healthy cubbens, a rare cross between a lion and a common house cat. The insemination occurred, it seems, at some point while the lions were running about the East End. Abernathy hosted private showings of the cubbens for $50 a head. For an extra $75, visitors were permitted to actually hold a cubben. Read the full story here.
Following the birth of her cat Missy Pants’ baby cubbens—a cross between a lion and a house cat—Ethel Abernathy asked local women to donate their breast milk to help feed the rare baby animals. Abernathy reported that Missy Pants couldn’t produce the milk necessary to sate the voracious appetites of her part-lion brood. She attempted to supplement the house cart’s milk with store-bought bovine milk, but the cubbens flatly rejected it. Luckily, Abernathy earned $50 per viewing of the cubbens, so she began offering locals $50 per pint of breast milk. Read the full story here.