The police’s Stock Theft Unit has opened a case against CapeNature over its decision to euthanise a lion cub which was found in possession of three men in Athlone.
Western Cape police spokesperson, Brigadier Novela Potelwa, explained on Friday that when the lion cub was found on August 21, it was handed over to CapeNature in Delft the same day because the police do not have the capacity to keep the animal.
“It emerged later that the animal was subsequently put down in Wellington,” Potelwa said.
“It was at this point members of the Stock Theft Unit opened a case at Wellington SAPS as there was no consultation with the unit about the intention or decision to euthanise the animal that is an exhibit in the contravention of Nature Conservation Ordinances case.”
She said their investigation continued and statements would be taken from relevant parties.
CapeNature’s acting general manager Loren Pavitt said they had not been notified of the police case against the organisation.
“The court process against the three accused is still under way and as such, there may be ongoing investigative processes relating to this case specifically. We will continue to work alongside the South African Police Service to punish the perpetrators.”
Shurud Jacobs, Moegamat Rayaan Simons and Sulaiman Effendi were arrested in August after the cub was found at Effendi’s Athlone home.
The cub had initially been transported from Thabazimbi, north-west of Pretoria, before finding itself in the Western Cape.
Responding on Thursday to criticism about its decision, CapeNature said options were considered, like rehabilitating the cub to be released into the wild or to place it in an institution, “but were found to not be viable or in line with sound conservation principles”.
“There are no successful cases of lions that have been rehabilitated and successfully released into the wild,” Pavitt said on behalf of the organisation.
“In fact, the national parliamentary colloquium on captive lion breeding and hunting in South Africa supports this and recommends no more lions find their way into permanent captivity.”
The lion cub was already habituated to humans and would have been unable to fend for itself in the wild, possibly continuing to seek human contact, the statement said.
“As the biodiversity conservation authority of the Western Cape, CapeNature has the obligation to look past the individual perspective and evaluate what is best for the species.
“This places CapeNature in the position to sometimes make hard decisions which are not always popular with or understood by the public,” CapeNature Executive Director: Conservation Operations, Dr Ernst Baard said.
Paul Hart, owner of Drakenstein Lion Park, a sanitary for lions, said they were disappointed by the decision to euthanise the cub.
“It was unnecessary. There are two sanctuary homes available for the cub.
“CapeNature could have given the cub to a sanctuary, and it could have been used as an educational campaign as to why wild animals shouldn’t be kept as pets,” Hart said.
He said the rationale CapeNature used was disingenuous because the bodies and practices have no relevance.
“The parliamentary colloquium is about breeding lions,” Hart said.
Jacobs, Rayaan Simons and Effendi are out on R5,000 bail and will appear in court again in February, News24 previously reported.