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On the loose: Hunt for tiger resumes in Walkerville, Sheba likely to be close to her ‘home’

Member of the Walker’s Fruit Farm CPF Gresham Mandy next to the cut fence where a tiger escaped.
Member of the Walker’s Fruit Farm CPF Gresham Mandy next to the cut fence where a tiger escaped.
Image: Alaister Russell

The hunt for an eight-year-old female tigress named Sheba resumed on Monday in Walker’s Fruit Farm, south of Johannesburg.

The big cat escaped from her enclosure on Friday evening after perpetrators cut the fence at a smallholding where she was hand-reared.

Gresham Mandy of the local community policing forum (CPF) said since her escape, Sheba had killed two dogs and injured a 39-year-old man.

“On Saturday evening she attacked a dog on a nearby farm. The dog was killed instantly.”

A few hours later Sheba attacked an employee of the local vet who had been walking on a pathway, about 100m from the home where the dog was killed.

“He was attacked while bending to tie his shoelace. It was between 9pm and 10pm. He was taken to hospital.”

According to eyewitnesses they heard screams and rushed to the man’s aid.

Sheba returned to the vicinity and attacked another dog early on Sunday morning.

“At about 4am she came back and attacked another dog. The dog had to be euthanised by the SPCA after it endured injuries to its neck and rib,” said Mandy.

Members of the CPF are on high alert and using drones to try to get an aerial view of the landscape.

Tall grass and dense veld make ideal camouflage for the big cat.

A police helicopter has been launched to circle the area in an attempt to locate Sheba, which has proved difficult.

Just before midday on Monday, a member of the CPF said they were plotting their next move.

“It is a 98% probability she is within an 800m radius. She would not have travelled further than that. It is too hot for her to move, so she is likely resting under a tree. A few of us are ready to head into the veld to look for her. The owner has come to terms that she is likely to be shot. If we can dart her we will do everything in our power to do that but it is not guaranteed.”

The owner has declined to comment at this stage.

Mandy has urged the public to remain calm and stay indoors until Sheba is located and darted.

Regulations relating to the keeping, breeding, killing and trading of tigers differ between the nine provinces, making effective management and record-keeping impossible.

Provincial legislation in Gauteng allows for exotic animals to be kept as pets in built-up areas.

A report compiled by Four Paws into big cat farming found the country had become a haven for the illicit big cat breeding industry.

“It is clear from this report that nobody knows how many big cats are being kept in South Africa or the volume and nature of illegal and legal trade,  least of all the relevant authorities required by law to control the industry and maintain accurate records.

“The burgeoning trade encourages illegal operations and contributes to the demise of wild big cat populations. Neither international nor South African authorities effectively control the lion or tiger trade, or rein in the burgeoning illicit trade.”

Members of the CPF walk through the veld close to the area where a tiger has escaped in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg, on January 16 2023.
Members of the CPF walk through the veld close to the area where a tiger has escaped in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg, on January 16 2023.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

TimesLIVE


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