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Promising signs Sheba the tigress will be captured on Tuesday

Sheba the tigress has been on the loose since Friday evening after escaping from a plot in the Walkerville area, south of Johannesburg.
Sheba the tigress has been on the loose since Friday evening after escaping from a plot in the Walkerville area, south of Johannesburg.
Image: Supplied

Gauteng’s blistering summer is proving to be enemy No 1 in efforts to capture Sheba the tigress at Walkers Fruit Farm, south of Johannesburg. However, there are positive signs that her capture looms.

The eight-year-old big cat was spotted near a waterhole on Monday night using drone thermal imaging.

She returned to her enclosure but soon after escaped through the flimsy wire fence, which had allegedly been cut, releasing the apex predator from the plot on Friday evening.

Gresham Mandy of the community policing forum said a team comprising the Captured in Africa Foundation K9 anti-poaching unit, a member of the special task force and community volunteers have agreed to a combined effort to flush out Sheba.

“We have an understanding of where she is but it is not safe for anyone to proceed on foot into that area,” he said.

Much like many big cats, the fully grown tigress, which weighs more than 100kg, seeks refuge in the shade during the day and springs into action at night when it is cooler.

The area of her movements is understood to be no more than an 800m² radius. The dense bush and hilly terrain provide Sheba with the cover she needs to hide during the day.

Sheba’s escape has again cast the spotlight on Gauteng’s flimsy laws surrounding owning exotic animals. According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust, in Gauteng, the North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo no permit is required to legally possess or keep exotic animals.

“Possession or keeping permits and permits to sell and purchase any wild animal are required in the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State, as well as for the import, export and transport of the animals,” it said.

“In all nine provinces, provision is made for the manner in which exotic animals may be kept and transported. This refers to the welfare and safety of the animals while in captivity. Some provinces also have a list of prohibited animals, which means there is no legal way to possess, import, convey, breed, sell and purchase such animals”

Midvaal mayor Peter Teixeira said his municipality would relook at the bylaws around keeping exotic animals. “We would need to look at strengthening the bylaws to ensure we are not caught off guard and to prevent something like this happening again,” he said.

He said their office was yet to make contact with 39-year-old William Mokoena, who was attacked and injured by Sheba on Saturday evening.

“He is under heavy stress. We have role players looking into making contact with him. We have learnt a lesson as government and a lot more needs to be done.”

The team is trying to safely dart, capture and relocate Sheba to a big cat sanctuary rather than kill her, which remains the last resort.


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