Facebook fight after cayman was ‘set free’

2014-01-13 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH —A young cayman called Chloe is in the middle of a Facebook fight between the McClarens Circus and animal activists after the reptile disappeared from its cage on Old Year’s Eve.

A charge of theft was laid at the local police office and Taryn Coates named as chief suspect. Coates is one of the many animal activists in Port Elizabeth who are against the use of wild animals in any circus.

The matter was also reported to nature conservation officials, but the circus did not publicise the theft because it is not something they can talk with the public about, explained David McClaren, owner of the circus.

He said Chloe had been missing for three days before they found her on January 3 in a pool of water in a storm water drain — about 300 metres from the circus grounds.

Coates was the chief suspect because one of her Facebook friends had posted on Coates’s page that she should steal the circus animals and keep them at her home.

“I could only laugh when I heard that I am one of the chief suspects, because this is not at all what I stand for,” Coates yesterday said.

“And how would I ever have caught a cayman?” she asked.

Coates said she was realistic enough to know that circus animals could not just be released. They will have to spend years, if not the rest of their lives, in a rehabilitation centre.

For Coates it does not matter that people are accusing her of animal theft.

“Although I did not attack anyone personally, it is being done to me, but I will take it, as long as people become aware of the problem of wild animals in captivity and start doing something about it.”

Spokesperson for the circus, Arnold Dickson, said he still believes someone set Chloe free.

He confirmed the police investigation will continue, but Coates is not longer a chief suspect.

The circus — and its cayman — have since moved on to Knysna. Animal activists had protested at each show.

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