Were five more tigers killed on Boswell’s Lion Park property?

2015-12-30 14:00
A tiger at Natal Zoological Gardens squeezed into a water trough in an attempt to cool down. Tigers need water to swim.

A tiger at Natal Zoological Gardens squeezed into a water trough in an attempt to cool down. Tigers need water to swim. (Karen Wadsworth-Borain)

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Pietermaritzburg - The controversy over the recent ­shooting of a Bengal tiger that escaped from zoo and circus owner Brian ­Boswell’s property was further fuelled on Tuesday by allegations that it was one of six tigers in fact killed in the wake of a mass escape.

The allegations emerged during a ­protest by animal rights activists ­outside Boswell’s Natal Zoological ­Gardens and Lion Park on Tuesday.

In a brief telephonic conversation with The Witness, Boswell later, however, denied that more than one tiger was killed “that day”.

“One tiger escaped and one tiger was shot in a separate incident,” he said.

In reply to the allegation that it was rumoured that five other tigers were also shot, Boswell said, “We have put down tigers before, but this was separate. On this occasion there was one tiger that was shot.”

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the organisation was aware of only one tiger being shot at Boswell’s behest after it escaped onto a neighbouring farm.

“I have received other phone calls from people also asking the same ­question you are … Our guys are busy trying to find out if it is true or not,” said Mntambo.

He said later Boswell had denied there were additional tiger shootings.

According to his information, however, it appeared that legislation does not require a permit to shoot a tiger provided it is shot on the owner’s property.

The allegation of a mass escape and killing of tigers on Boswell’s property ­emanated from a local resident.

The man told the protesters on Tuesday that according to his information six ­tigers had been shot, not only the one reported in the media.

He said later that he had heard about this from Boswell’s employees.

“I live in the Lion Park area and the people who work there are friends.

“What I heard was that six tigers escaped — five were shot and one escaped from that shooting and was shot later. In all there were six shot dead,” he said.

He said that prominent monkey expert and animal activist Steve Smit, who was at the protest, phoned Boswell in his presence and confronted him with the information. “He [Boswell] confirmed it,” he said.

Smit said that when he called Boswell he did not ask him if it was true that six tigers were shot.

“I just said that I was calling about the six tigers that escaped and were shot, and Boswell confirmed it,” he said.

Smit said he asked Boswell if the tigers were all shot on the same day and he had replied “no” and said they were shot “over a couple of days”.

“Five were shot on his property and one went onto a neighbouring property and was shot there. I asked Boswell why the tigers were not darted, and he said it was because the bush was too thick,” said Smit.

A video recording of Smit talking to Boswell has been posted on Facebook.

Animal rights supporters at the protest, organised by Ban Animal Trading (BAT) under the banner #BoswellMustFall, condemned the conditions at the Zoological Gardens, as well as the tiger shooting.

Motorists driving past the protesters hooted in support.

Some potential visitors appeared to change their minds about visiting the zoo after reading the messages on display and drove away.

Protesters said they did not want to intimidate people, but only educate them that animals are not intended for entertainment and to lead miserable lives imprisoned in zoos or circuses.

“I don’t mind people going to the zoo to see for themselves how miserable these animals are. Maybe it will be an eye-opener for them,” said Karen ­Wadsworth-Borain, who posted a series of photographs of the animals taken at Boswell’s zoo on Facebook.

Sanette Els said she “sobbed” when she went to inspect the animals in the zoo.

“They have nothing to do. They just pace up and down and walk in circles. Their eyes beg you to help them, to release them from their prison,” she said.

Boswell’s zoo came under fire in 2009 when Ezemvelo accused him of ill-treating animals. The matter arose after Ezemvelo tried to enforce a more stringent permit system.

Boswell himself has always maintained that the animals in his care are “in good condition”, and has pointed out that his breeding of, and trade in, lions and tigers in particular, is not illegal.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  animals

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