In South Africa, a tigress sows panic and livens up the debate about breeding cats

In South Africa, a tigress sows panic and livens up the debate about breeding cats

Members of an anti-poaching society prepare a cage for the escaped tigress in Walkerville, January 17, 2023. Members of an anti-poaching society prepare a cage for the escaped tigress in Walkerville, January 17, 2023. MARCO LONGARI / AFP

It sowed panic near Johannesburg for more than two days. Sheba, an 8-year-old tigress, fled a private property in Walkerville, south of South Africa’s economic capital, on Sunday January 15 and was still at large as of Tuesday morning, Le Monde Gresham Mandy, head of local vigilance, confirmed committee. , a voluntary organization that acts as the local police force. The animal, described as “dangerous” by the SPCA, the equivalent of the Society for the Protection of Animals in France, has already killed two dogs, a pig and a deer. He also attacked a 39-year-old man. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, but “his life is not in danger,” assures Gresham Mandy.

Also read: In South Africa, cougars and lions became infected with Covid-19

About thirty people are searching for the tigress, who is probably hidden in the tall grass that covers this corner of the countryside, half an hour from Johannesburg. Significant resources have been expended trying to locate it. “We have drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras and helicopters equipped with the same technology,” continues Gresham Mandy. She returned to her enclosure around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, but there was no one to close the gate and she left. The day before, Sheba was near a waterhole. Search teams are now hoping to catch her by dumping meat mixed with a tranquilizer near where she was discovered.

The animal was kept in captivity on a farm with a male tiger. A situation that is no exception in South Africa, where no law prohibits private ownership of wild animals. Tigers are an endangered species native to Asia and are considered exotic animals under South African law. Several provinces, including Johannesburg, do not require keeping permits, making it impossible to know exactly how many people in the area own tigers.

“Dirty and Dangerous”

The situation disgusts animal rights organizations, which have been calling for tougher legislation for a number of years. “What is happening now has happened before and is bound to happen again. This is a huge problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible, regrets Smaragda Louw, President of Ban Animal Trading. Typically, owners abandon these animals because they don’t realize the exorbitant expense that comes with them. They keep them in cages at the end of their garden, it’s dirty. Dirty and dangerous. »

In 2010, 17-month-old tiger Panjo escaped from his owner’s car, who was taking him to the vet

“This tiger escaped because the fence of his enclosure was cut,” she continues. What kind of fence is so easy to cut through that a tiger can run away and attack a man? It is evident that these tigers were not kept in satisfactory conditions. Be that as it may, no garden can be satisfactory for a tiger. In 2010, Panjo, a 17-month-old, 140 kg tiger, escaped from his owner’s car, which was taking him to the vet. During the two-day escape, he was found east of the capital, Pretoria. In October 2021 near Johannesburg, a tiger separated from a nursery garden by a simple fence too low to prevent it from leaping also made headlines.

Also read South Africa wants to restore its image by banning lion breeding

South African legislation also allows the breeding of tigers, a phenomenon long denounced by organizations such as Ban Animal Trading. In 2019, Le Monde visited a farm in the Free State province where dozens of tigers and more than a hundred lions were raised. Classified as a “reserve” by its owners, the structure, open to tourists, offered to “cuddle” tiger cubs officially destined for export. “A 3-month-old tiger is worth more than 800 euros and an adult tiger almost 11,000 euros,” explained an employee.

lion bone traffic

Most often, these live exported tigers are officially shipped to individuals in the Gulf States or to zoos in Asia. But, Smaragda Louw points out, “Exporting a tiger to a zoo in Laos, Vietnam or China is like importing a lion from abroad to a zoo in South Africa… it makes no sense! Many organizations suspect that these animals are supposed to fuel the trade in tiger bones. These are crushed and incorporated into various preparations, which popular belief gives medicinal properties to.

Until 2019, South Africa approved the export of lion bones, which were sometimes mixed with those of tigers before being shipped to Asia. “Officially, nobody can export lion bones from South Africa anymore, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen anymore,” says Smaragda Louw. In 2022, an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a network of investigative journalists, detailed how the cat bone trade from South Africa to Asia worked and highlighted the role of mafia groups focused on the wildlife trade have specialized animals.

Also Read: The Booming Lion Bone Trade in South Africa

The existence of this traffic is one of the reasons that led the Ministry of the Environment to announce the upcoming ban on lion breeding in 2021. The measure denounced by the breeders – who claim to act for the protection of species – does not concern the breeding of tigers. But Sheba’s leak could reignite the debate. “It is time to address the regulations so that this situation does not repeat itself,” concludes Smaragda Louw. For his part, the owner of the tigress refuses to speak in the media at the moment.