The early hours of Wednesday morning saw the euthanasia of a tiger that had escaped from a private property south of Johannesburg, assaulted a man, and killed two dogs and a pig while roaming free. The eight-year-old female tiger Sheba was shot early in the morning after being seen in a neighborhood close to where it fled in the Walkerville district south of Johannesburg, according to police Sheba escaped on Saturday after being kept as a pet in an enclosure on a smallholding. The huge cat’s owner got permission for its euthanasia after officials determined that it was unsafe to attempt to securely trap it.
“Due to the terrain and area it was not possible to contain her or secure her safely,” said Gresham Mandy, a community police group representative. “At 3:45 a.m. the decision was made to euthanize her while it was still safe to do so. Unfortunately at that moment in time darting her was not an option.”Mandy said it was “not an easy decision” but the safety of the community was “a priority.”
William Mokoena described to the media how, on Saturday night, while he was returning home from the grocery store, a tiger attacked him. When Mokoena knelt down to tie a shoelace, the tiger pounced on him and tried to take him away, according to Mokoena. He claimed that he chased the tiger away with his legs. Officials conducting the search tried to find Sheba using a helicopter and drones. Mandy reported that the big cat was eventually located in a nearby farmland area, close to several residences.
Animal welfare organizations are questioning South Africa’s rules regarding owning exotic animals as pets in light of the tiger’s escape. The Gauteng province, where Sheba was housed, does not require a license for exotic animal ownership, according to the animal protection organization SPCA.“This tigress, which has already displayed the behavior of a tiger in the wild, did not wander into a residential area on her own,” the SPCA said. “She was unwillingly brought there to be held in captivity, something that should not have been allowed to take place to begin with.”
On the Arboretum Farm near Walkers Fruit Farms, some 2 kilometers from where she was last seen wandering, reports of “activity” were received at roughly 1:55 in the morning, according to Elaine Potgieter of the We Love Walkerville Facebook page. A domestic animal was attacked and killed as a result of the actions.
Elaine said she had entered an agricultural area with six houses that people lived in. A call was placed for immediate assistance when Sheba attacked and killed one of the household animals. Members arrived at the spot and started looking for the Tiger. The Tiger’s owner was there, and she was standing next to one of the farm’s residences.
“Due to the terrain and area it was not possible to contain her or secure her safely. At 3:45 am the decision was made to euthanise her while it was still safe to do so. Unfortunately at that moment in time, darting her was not an option. Sheba had moved during the night across the hills to the West side of Fruit Farms bringing her close to livestock and others residents in a more densely populated area. This was not an easy decision to make at the time and the safety of the community of Walkers Fruit Farms was a priority.”
On Saturday morning, Sheba and a male tiger broke free from their confinement on a private farm. After being securely captured, the male tiger was relocated to a wildlife refuge. Sheba killed one dog and injured another after attacking a 39-year-old man who was taken to the hospital.Tigers are not native to South Africa, but the country does engage in tiger breeding (some of which are sold to foreign zoos) and the rehabilitating of ex-zoo tigers. Sheba was lawfully maintained on the private site as her property. According to a member of the local police force, the tigers’ enclosure had been intentionally cut.
Yesteday Elaine thanked all those who have been on the site since Saturday, saying: “People who have volunteered and traveled from far, police officers and other officials who have spent long hours, days and nights without much food, water or protection from heat or cold.”
To the tiger’s owner, Elaine said: “And to the owner who in addition to this heartbreaking loss has been heaped with so much hate posts. Well done to all. I know this is not the outcome any of you hoped for. The reality of the situation was as it dragged out it became less likely for a successful capture. Also a word of thanks to those that donated food, bottled water, and other drinks to the teams. She added: “And to those idiots that hindered their work, you contributed to this sad outcome!”
In an extra note, Elaine explained: “I feel compassion for the owner, but I do not agree that wild animals (from any country) should be kept. As with many Facebook pages, Elaine has been inundated by comments from people “who have never been members of this group that are nasty”. As she pointed out “difference of opinion is acceptable, nastiness is NOT!”
Carte Blanche expose on Tigers in Gauteng
A Carte Blanche exposé on tigers being walked like dogs in Gauteng was published less than three months ago. Community activist Audrey Steyn discussed “how two white tigers are frightening locals in Boksburg” on the current affairs program. “So there’s tigers in Benoni, there are tigers in Boksburg, there’s tigers in Springs and in Brakpan. And these are in residential areas where people walk the tigers as if they’re walking their dogs,” said Audrey.
In South Africa, there is an increasing desire for wild animals as pets, which is fueled in part by adorable online animal cuddle videos and the idea that these animals may be entirely domesticated. White tigers are the top predators in the wild, tracking their prey fearlessly for hours before ambushing them and killing them. These aggressive hunters are in high demand from individuals looking for exotic pets due to their distinctive white fur coats, but they are still deadly wild animals that are native to India, Russia, and China where they flourish in cold temperatures, swamps, and forests. Not in a city!
A pre-school teacher in Boksburg, Gauteng, raised the alarm when she horrifiedly saw a white tiger peeping over the fence into her creche. However, in the City of Ekurhuleni, there are no public health regulations that forbid someone from keeping a wild animal on their own property if certain requirements are followed. That offers little solace to the terrified residents who suddenly live next door to two tigers. Then, Carte Blanche questioned if exotic pets were actually safe to keep as house pets. Audrey also points out that tigers are “being tempted all the time by what’s going on around them” in cities where “a lion can’t be a lion. A tiger can’t be a tiger. To have constant sound and traffic and the smog and smell, and everything that comes along with being in a city…”