Fury over 6 tigers shot dead in KZN
Durban - Six tigers shot dead in the Cato Ridge area escaped from their enclosures after someone removed the padlocks.
This is the claim of Brian Boswell, the circus entrepreneur and owner of the Natal Zoological Gardens and Lion Park.
Animal rights activists reacted with fury before Christmas when Boswell admitted one tiger had escaped and was shot on a neighbouring farm.
Animal lovers wanted to know why the big cat had not been darted with tranquillisers.
This week the storm around Boswell’s head grew when he admitted that not one, but six tigers had escaped and were then shot because of the danger they posed to staff and visitors.
Both the SPCA and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are investigating.
Asked how the animals could have escaped, Boswell said he “suspects foul play”.
He said the locks had been removed from the tigers’ cages.
He believed two types of people might have removed the locks from the tigers’ cages: people wanting to steal the cats, or activists “who don’t want anything in captivity”.
Boswell stressed he had taken “a responsible decision” to destroy the tigers because they are dangerous animals.
“I am not a canned hunter, nor am I in the business of tiger bones.”
Visiting the park this week, Boswell said he had not answered calls from the media since the protests on Tuesday because he had been undergoing chemotherapy. He confirmed that all six cats had been killed in two separate incidents.
Five were shot on Monday, December 7, as they were milling about the staff quarters, he said.
At first light on the Thursday, the sixth cat was traced and shot by a hunter in thick bush on a neighbouring farm.
“It would not have been safe to dart them and we don’t have the drugs. We are not allowed to keep them here. There was nothing else we could do. It would have been a worse loss if somebody had been injured or killed. It was the responsible thing to do.”
They were shot by a professional and a vet was present, he added.
The tigers were on their way to a new zoo in the Far East that has not yet opened.
“They were two-and-a-half to three years’ old and being held pending documentation to be exported by a dealer. You have to prepare them for export. They need to be dewormed and deparasited.”
He said some of the six had been raised on his property near Camperdown, where “several” other tigers were on view. He would not confirm whether any had been born there. “We deal with so many, I wouldn’t know,” he said.
“The zoo wanted a dozen, but we didn’t have a dozen. The dealers gathered six of them to go.”
They were housed in pens, each with a night cage with a locked gate that opens into a service area.
Their carcasses have been buried. “If I had to I would exhume them, but they are not something I would want to dig up,” he said.
Boswell went on to say that hyenas, parrots and lions had been stolen and poached.
“Even ivory off a live elephant. They sawed it off and it wasn’t even a big piece.”
Arno de Klerk, national inspector for the NSPCA Wildlife Unit, said they had recently visited the facility, but not for this case.
“We do not have much information about it, but we are investigating.”
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Musa Mntambo said investigations would start early this year. He said it was news to Ezemvelo that there was more than one tiger involved.
Steve Smit of Monkey Helpline fame, whose other organisation, Animal Rights in Action, staged a protest last week, said Boswell’s not having reported the attempted theft and not going public about six tigers, rather than only one being killed raised questions. He called for an independent inquiry.
Smit disputed Boswell’s idea that activists would go as far as releasing tigers.
“We are not anti-human and we certainly would not release animals into a situation that is not good for them.”
Independent on Saturday