CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Police believe somebody tampered with the cage of a 90-kilogram Siberian tiger at a Lake Cowichan wildlife sanctuary, allowing it to run loose on the weekend before being coaxed out of a neighbour's yard and back into captivity.
"The lock was intact but the mechanism from the gate to the post was broken and left on the ground," said Const. Brian Brown of Lake Cowichan RCMP.
"Anybody that would do that, whether an animal activist or whoever, sentenced this cat to death by letting it out into the community. It was not a very well-thought out plan."
Jamie Bell, owner of Primate Estates, lured the nine-month-old tiger into a small shed and then into a transport shed. No one was injured.
Bell told CHTV she believes someone wanted to release the tiger because of publicity about the recent death of a woman in the B.C. Interior who was mauled by a caged pet tiger.
That death sparked debate about regulations for keeping exotic animals.
Primate Estates, five kilometres outside Lake Cowichan, has 52 primates and nine exotic cats, including a serval, which is like a small cheetah, and a caracal, like a lynx.
"We can build them tiger-proof but it's really hard to human-proof," Bell said of the enclosure.
"Don't you think the timing is very strange after this thing up north. Less than a week later on a Saturday night my tiger cage gets broken into. I mean there's an agenda going on here, you know."
Police do not know when the tiger escaped but she was spotted just after 1 p.m. Sunday.
Brown said one of the Bells was with the tiger when police arrived.
"Eventually they lured the tiger into a small shed and then it was loaded into a transport container," and taken back to Primate Estates, said Brown.
Neighbours say the tiger is just the latest exotic animal to run wild down their normally tame streets.
Corey Bath, 32, has three small children. She says the Bells have a longstanding problem with animals escaping their property.
Bath was 18 when she saw an orangutan running down the street. "I thought it was a bear and then, oh my God,' it was a monkey," she said.
Bath is worried her children, aged two, four and eight, may encounter a fugitive from Primate Estates.
"They can't even keep their dog in the yard," she said.