This is an excerpt from an article written and published online by The Conversation on 20 January, 2023
A tiger escaped from a residence and roamed the countryside outside Johannesburg, South Africa, for four days this month. It attacked a man and killed several animals, and was eventually shot by the authorities. Tigers aren’t native to South Africa and are considered an alien species. Its escape highlights the country’s controversial commercial captive breeding industry and the key role South Africa plays in the international big cat trade. Tigers are being intensively farmed for tourism, hunting, and commercial trade in live individuals and in their body parts.
Moina Spooner, assistant editor at The Conversation Africa, asked Neil D’Cruze and Angie Elwin to share their insights into the industry.
What are your main concerns about South Africa’s captive predator industry?
The recent tiger escape in Johannesburg demonstrates the safety risk that this industry poses to wildlife farm workers, visitors and the public. Attacks by big cats in South Africa have resulted in multiple life-changing human injuries and deaths in recent years.
Although individual tigers can be tamed to varying degrees, this should not be confused with domestication. They are wild animals. They have biological and behavioural needs that can only be fully met in the wild.
Another concern we have is for animal welfare. Big cat breeding facilities in South Africa have been consistently criticised for their substandard conditions.