Big cats at predator park were already sold - liquidators

2015-07-12 07:03
One of the tigers at the predator park. (Justin Fernandes, Facebook)

One of the tigers at the predator park. (Justin Fernandes, Facebook)

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WATCH: Tiger owners thrilled to have big cats back in enclosure

2015-07-10 09:53

The big cats, which a lawyer tried to remove from a Limpopo predator park on Thursday, were back in their enclosures - unharmed, but traumatised. WATCH.WATCH

Johannesburg - The 21 big cats that were prevented from being taken away from a Limpopo predator park, whose most famous occupant is Panjo the tiger, did not belong to the park's owners, according to liquidators. 

KIP Insolvencies said on Saturday that the felines had been sold during a liquidation settlement.

"At no time was it ever in dispute that these predators are assets of the insolvent estate until Wednesday afternoon 1 July 2015," it said in a statement. 

"The liquidators attempted throughout to prevent the sale of the animals and states categorically that the decision was not taken lightly.

"The unsavoury events of this past week could have been prevented if individuals did not take the law into their own hands."

However, owner Justin Fernandes disputed this.

Fernandes said on Thursday that his family and friends prevented the truck into which the cats had been loaded from leaving Jugomaro Predator Park, near Groblersdal, in Limpopo on Wednesday. 

“We blocked them at every entrance and exit. They left the cats and went home."

He said a "youngster called Nel, an attorney from Pretoria", arrived with about 20 men on Wednesday morning and began darting his cats and loading them into a closed truck.

There were 21 big cats on the farm, but they were only able to load 12, including 6-year-old Panjo, as the truck was too small.

The liquidators provided background on the insolvency on Saturday, which it says proves that the felines were part of the estate. 

It said Validtrade 59 was liquidated by an order of the High Court in Pretoria in October 2014.

The director of the company is Augusto Perreira Fernandes, the father of Justin Fernandes. 

Validtrade owned five portions of farmland, which were sold in December 2014. 

The purchaser of the land later agreed that one of the portions be sold back to Fernandes through another company of his called Naxxy Trading. 

"This is also the portion on which the exotic cats are situated."

The liquidators said Naxxy Trading did not perform in terms of the sale agreement, which led to the cancellation of the sale.

"The liquidators were informed that since the sale agreement was cancelled and the purchaser [of the land] bought several other species of exotic game, the exotic cats that form part of the insolvent estate must be relocated or removed from the premises."

The liquidators said they found a purchaser for the animals, a conservationist in Lichtenburg, North West. They asked Fernandes several times for the permits to conclude the sale of the animals, but he did not answer. 

Eviction order

In April, the purchaser of the land applied for the family and Naxxy Trading to be evicted from the land and the order was granted. The family has appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

"This matter is still pending and we await confirmation of the Supreme Court of Appeal whether this matter has any merit to be heard," the liquidators said. 

The family is also applying for the setting aside of the liquidation, however that matter was still sub judice. 

The purchaser of the animals arrived on the property on Wednesday, accompanied by his attorney SD Nel. 

According to the liquidators, Naxxy Trading and the family then applied for an interdict to prevent the animals from being removed, which was subsequently dismissed. 

"Since the application for the interdict by the Fernandes family was unsuccessful, the purchaser of the predators continued with the attempted removal and the relocation of these animals to his property. Despite the application being dismissed, he was prevented... [from leaving] the premises."

The liquidators were told on Thursday that the vehicles transporting the predators were still not able to leave the property, so they, together with the purchaser applied to the High Court in Pretoria for an order to compel the family and other people to "discontinue their conduct". 

While the application was being heard on Thursday, the court was informed that the animals were darted again, at the behest of the family, and removed from the vehicles. 

"Once [the judge]... was informed of this, he categorically said that he is not willing to jeopardise the health of the animals to have them darted continuously over the period of two days," the liquidators said. 

"The liquidators agreed and stated that it is in the best interest of the animals to be offloaded due to the events that unfolded without the knowledge or consent of the liquidators, the court or the purchaser.

"There was no interdict granted preventing the removal of the animals from the premises."

The liquidators told the court they were willing to reject the sale agreement of the animals and to "tender the costs of the purchaser for expenses incurred in the attempted relocation of these animals".

But, the new owner of the animals still wants delivery of the animals as per the valid sale agreement.

"This matter will continue to receive our constant attention and we believe that an amicable solution will be found. We are ever providing our undertaking to the public that the best interest of these animals is our primary concern," The statement from the liquidators said.

In July 2010, Panjo the tiger made headlines when he jumped off the bakkie in which he was being taken to a vet.

He disappeared for two days and three nights before he was found in a wattle plantation in Verena, 70km from the reserve.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  animals

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