S. African tiger caught after 2 days on the run
By MIA SNYMAN (AP) – July 29.2010
JOHANNESBURG — The escaped Bengal tiger who captured headlines across South Africa has been found and returned home after a 2-day search, hungry and worse for the wear after a jump from the back of a moving truck, the tiger's owners said Thursday.
The owners of Panjo, a full-grown tiger, say tracker dogs found the cat's scent late Wednesday in bush woodlands about 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Johannesburg. The tiger was slightly hurt, evidently from jumping from a moving truck when it escaped Tuesday, an animal welfare group said.
Police had warned residents of the neighborhood not to approach Panjo, though the owners said it was tame and had been hand-raised from a cub. The hunt attracted widespread publicity in South Africa where tigers are not a native species.
The tiger appeared not to have eaten since its escape. The captors offered it raw meat and milk to attract it toward them to put on a harness.
"We felt relieved and very glad to see that Panjo was safe and sound and that no one harmed him," said Justin Fernandes, 25, the son of Panjo's owner, Goosey Fernandes.
Panjo was found after one of the search dogs spotted it in the field near the Fernandes' farm in the district of Groblersdal.
"Approximately an hour after we gave the dogs a break from the search, one of the dogs got a good sense near our farm. When we shone our lights in the grass we saw Panjo's eyes. We called him and when he heard our voices he started moving toward us slowly and greeted us," Justin Fernandes told The Associated Press.
Earlier searchers had used aircraft fitted with heat-seeking sensors to help find the 17-month-old tiger.
Isabel Wensel, an official with the South African Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there was no evidence the tiger had attacked anyone.
"If he was hungry he probably would have hunted chickens as I believe that is what they usually fed him," Wensel said.
Panjo had "a few scrapes" on its face and a foot from jumping out of the moving truck, she said.
Wensel said the tiger might have followed its instincts as a wild animal if it had been confronted by humans. When found, the animal appeared frightened and bewildered and at first mock-charged its captors.
"Panjo is a very large tiger so we can only imagine what he is capable of," she said. "He was in a different environment to what he is used to and that always affects animal behavior."