Benefactors ensure white tiger will stay in Mossel Bay

By Time of article published Aug 4, 2011

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Janine Oelofse

Garden Route Media

ANGELO, the nearly blind white tiger at the centre of an ownership row between Jukani Wildlife Predator Park in Mossel Bay and Letsatsi la Africa big cat farm in the Free State, will remain at Jukani Wildlife Predator Park.

According to a High Court order obtained by Letsatsi la Africa owner Kobus van der Westhuizen this year, Jukani owner Jurg Olsen was given until the end of July to pay R250 000 each for Angelo and his mate Mich, or return the pair to Letsatsi.

Olsen yesterday said he met two benefactors two months ago. They started a fund-raising campaign which eventually netted R65 000, and then donated the remaining R185 000 required to keep Angelo at Jukani.

The two benefactors also offered Olsen a long-term loan for the other R250 000 to ensure that Mich would remain with her best friend.

“Everyone who helped us with donations was amazing. I am sure our two benefactors are from another planet as I have never seen so much compassion and commitment to help us save Angelo and Mich. They want to remain anonymous, so I can’t even thank them in public,” Olsen said.

Angelo and Mich arrived as cubs at Jukani in 2008 after Van der Westhuizen had asked Olsen to help him import four white tigers from Elmvale Zoo in Canada.

At the time Van der Westhuizen did not have the necessary import permits.

He later acquired permits for two of the tigers and it was agreed that Angelo and Mich would remain on loan at Jukani with their progeny going to Van der Westhuizen. The loan agreement also gave Jukani first option to buy the animals.

However, in July 2009, Angelo was diagnosed with progressive retinal atrophy, an incurable genetic disease brought on by in-breeding to attain the tiger’s coveted white coat. Olsen said, as a result, Angelo could not be used for breeding. He also needed continued medical care and relied on Mich to guide him.

As the dispute between Olsen and Van der Westhuizen came to a head, Olsen said he feared that, because of his disease, authorities could approve a canned or trophy hunt on Angelo, whose skin and body parts could fetch a high price in the Chinese traditional medicine market.

Van der Westhuizen, who was at the centre of a public outcry last year when he received a permit from the Free State Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to sell lion bones, said he had no plans to shoot Angelo. Olsen said fund-raising efforts would continue to repay the loan, including an auction of international ruby memorabilia at the Atlantic Beach Gold Club in Melkbosstrand within the next month.

According to an advertisement in the Landbou Weekblad agricultural magazine, a liquidation auction will be held at Letsatsi la Africa on August 19 in which 30 lions and white lions, a leopard, two hyenas, three cheetahs and two serval cats will be sold, along with a house, chalets and a conference centre.

The planned auction follows an order obtained by Azalea Trading, which is apparently owed more than R1 million by Letsatsi.

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