Panjo returns home

2010-07-29 07:37

A jubilant Goosey Fernandes, owner of Panjo the hand-reared tiger who was found last night after going walkabout for two days, celebrated by opening a bottle of whiskey for himself, and a bottle of milk for his beloved animal.

Fernandes said: “When I called out to him, he came straight towards me, put his head on my shoulder and purred. And he carried on purring all the way back, this is how I communicate with him, we understand each other. Everyone is now having a whiskey at home, we are ecstatic and relieved.”

Fernando said the party would continue till today.

Panjo was found in the bushes near Verena, Mpumalanga, at around 8pm.

A frantic search began for the majestic animal after he jumped out of his owners’ bakkie in Delmas on Monday evening.

Fernandes said: “He was frightened, terrified, I lured him with a piece of rump steak but he knew me already. Yes, he is walking around the house, we haven’t put him back onto the farm. He is enjoying being home, and we are enjoying him.”

The animal was transported back in the same vehicle he escaped from.

Fernandes said he had been taking the 145kg animal to a vet for his vaccinations and a chip to be inserted, when “he went AWOL”.

He said: “You know, when I realised he was gone, I just fell to my knees, phoned my wife and said to her ‘dear God, Panjo’s gone’.”

He said when sniffer dogs tracked the scent of the animal, people who were part of the search team “started going ape”.

“I told them, please just leave him [Panjo] alone. It was dark, they were waving torches in hand...I must say I got a bit cheesed off, so I said to them, ’Please, let me load him into the van.’”

Panjo, a Bengal tiger, caused much panic among community members since his escape.

Some expressed fears that he may attack a person as he had not eaten since Monday evening.

Many also claimed to have spotted the animal.

Earlier yesterday Fernandes said he had started receiving calls from people demanding money as compensation for their animals, they said were eaten by the feline, which was used to getting food from his owner.

Fernandes said: “One guy said, ‘your cat just killed three of my cows. I have got him and I want R10 000’. I told him, ‘I will give you R20 000, just keep him there’, but then I can’t get hold of him again.”

It was eventually a sighting by a farmer in Verena that led to Panjo being found, Fernandes said.

“He had quite a roam.”

Panjo was born on February 21, last year on Fernandes’ property.

“He was born on Robert Mugabe’s birthday, but Panjo is too loveable,” he chuckled.

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