On Wednesday, a tiger that had gone free from a farm outside of Johannesburg for four days, attacking a man, killing several animals, was put to death.
Concerns about the legal and successful big cat breeding industry in South Africa have returned in the wake of the tiger’s escape and final slaughter.
According to Gresham Mandy, a member of a local safety volunteer group in Walkerville, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Johannesburg, the eight-year-old female Bengal tiger was put down just before dawn after it killed a dog, the latest in a string of attacks that followed its escape from an enclosure at a private farm on Saturday.
Although tigers are not native to South Africa, the country has recently seen a rise in the number of people breeding them as pets or for export.
The tiger, named Sheba, roamed the countryside outside of Johannesburg for days, attacking a man and killing several animals, said Mandy.
The 39-year-old man survived the assault and was hospitalised with injuries to his legs, according to local media.
Dozens of people, including animal experts and members of the community group tracked the big cat using drones and a helicopter.
Lions were legally bred for commercial hunting, which led to the emergence of tiger farming in South Africa. Exports of lion bones to Asia were also permitted up until 2019, when a moratorium was imposed as a result of a court decision.
Animal rights organizations are outraged about the rising practice of breeding large cats.
“What is happening here is utterly awful,” Smaragda Louw, director of the non-profit organization Ban Animal Trading, told AFP. “Having a tiger as a pet is just cruel to the animal.”
The decision to put her down was made after her latest kill.
“She killed the dog in a private farm with dwellings where six families reside, it was becoming too much of a risk,” Mandy said. “In that moment there was no other option but to put her down,” said Mandy.
A report by the global animal rights charity Four Paws showed that 452 live tigers and tiger parts were exported from South Africa from 2011-2020, mostly to zoos.
It cited among top buyers of live tigers, Vietnam, China and Thailand where there is “high demand for tiger parts used in traditional medicine and luxury items.”
Globally, the captive population of the endangered big cat is three times the remaining wild population.
“We’ve been advocating to South African authorities to bring an end to tiger farming because if (people) don’t have access to buying these animals this wouldn’t have happened,” Four Paws spokeswoman Elize Parker told AFP, referring to the Sheba incident.
Environment ministry spokesman Albi Modise said a team was set up in late 2022 year to look into a possible ban on tiger breeding and is expected to start its work this year.
There is no accurate estimate of the tiger population in South Africa.
According to a report from the previous year, tiger bones were discovered amid lion bones that had previously been shipped, according to Louw.
Louw added, “So there’s that black market as well.
Additionally, rights organizations claimed that farmers in South Africa were producing ligers, a hybrid of tigers and lions.
However, Louw claimed that these inventions had no “conservation value” because they could never be released into the wild.