Protest to free caged tigers

2015-12-21 14:03
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 - An anti-Brian Boswell movement is gaining momentum following the shooting of a Bengal tiger that escapedfrom the Lion Park and circus owner’s property last week.

Ban Animal Trading (BAT) called on Facebook for concerned members of the public to join a protest at Umlaas Road tomorrow under the banner #BrianBoswellMustFall.

The protest is to take place on the N3 bridge between 11 am and 2 pm. Signs will be put up to tell the public where to go.

A woman who visited Boswell’s Natal Zoological Gardens after the shooting of the tiger to see for herself the conditions the animals are held in, told The Witness she was appalled by what she found.

Karen Wadsworth-Borain published a series of photographs on Face­book of the conditions. “Take note of the unlocked cages, water troughs for drinking are green with algae. They have no trees or grass, only cement floors. Tigers need water to swim in, but the tiny cement cages do not have that — one tiger squeezed his body into his drinking trough to try cool down.

“The tigers are all thin and clearly distressed as they can be heard crying out, and pace up and down the small enclosure,” she told The Witness.

Borain said the orangutan, Opal, a social creature, had lived alone for over 10 years. “She begs visitors for food and when you don’t comply she throws faeces at you. All signs of distress. The leopards which are shy tree-dwelling animals, share a small cage with only one branch to sit on.”

She said she was charged by a rhino in the car park as she walked to her car. “They don’t seem to take any precautions for human or animal safety,” she said.

Borain said she wished the animals, many critically endangered, could be rescued and sent to sanctuaries to live out their lives with their dignity restored.

“The public needs to know that while Boswell has these animals, the purchase of tickets to his circus, just supports and perpetuates the abuse of these animals. Until he stops using the animals … we all need to stop going to his shows,” she said.

An organiser of tomorrow’s planned protest by BAT, Smaragda Louw, said their aim is to educate the public and hopefully end the abuse.

The organisation is vehemently opposed to wild animal acts in circuses and though Boswell apparently no longer uses big cats in his circus performances, he has never made a statement to this effect, she said.

She said the tiger that was shot was reportedly not a danger to anyone at the time and was just lying in the bush.

Asked for comment yesterday Boswell again defended the shooting of the tiger and said while he would have “preferred” to dart the animal it had to be shot for “safety reasons” because of its close proximity to people and livestock.

The thick bush made it impossible for a vet to dart the animal, he said.

While still unsure how the predator escaped from his property, he said the tiger wasn’t kept at the zoological gardens, but was housed on his “other property”.

Already sold to a dealer in Gauteng, it was awaiting “documentation” and was destined to be shipped to a zoo, he said.

Responding to his critics he said; “If the tiger was in their back yard, they would have a different story.”

Boswell maintained the animals in his care are “in good condition” and said his detractors “will always find something” to complain about.

He denied that the rhino in the car park could have charged Borain, saying the animal had been hand-reared as an orphan eight years ago and was accompanied by a handler at all times.

“I do breed tigers and lions from time to time and I sell them. There is nothing illegal about it,” he said.

Boswell said he has been accused of selling tigers and lions “for the tiger bone and lion bone trade” but said he has never done so.

He also denied any links with the “canned” lion hunting industry, and said he withdrew wild animal acts from his circus four years ago.

He added that he was “thinking of bringing them back” however, because the general public want to see wild animals in circuses.

“People can choose to come to a show or not. It isn’t compulsory to go to a circus or to a zoo,” he added.

He said while he is not on Facebook he was told someone had posted that he [Boswell] “should be shot” instead of the tiger.

He said his lawyers would attend to this in due course. This was just one of several threatening comments on Facebook that people had told him about, he added.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  animal  |  tiger

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