Have I Got this Right? Panjo the Tiger Will Dig My Chicken a la King?

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What a lot of fun we’re having right now in South Africa, hey? With the World Cup fading into a yellowy-sepia tone, we’ve been given a rampaging-tiger-on-the-loose drama to hook into.

What a jolly jape. What a rollicking rumpus. What a rip-roaring reality show. What a complete poephol Goosey Fernandes is.

Goosey Fernandes. That tells you all you need to know. Would you buy a used car from an oke called Goosey Fernandes? Would you open your mouth to a dentists who drills by the name of Goosey Anything? I wouldn’t. The man is clearly an idiot.

Who keeps a tiger in his backyard? And then sticks him on the back of a bakkie to take him to the vet? Only a guy called Goosey.

So Panjo, for that is the name given to Goosey’s pet “cat”, jumped off the bakkie, swung by the local Wimpy, didn’t fancy a double cheeseburger and fries and disappeared. Any well brought-up and obedient domesticated animal would have reported itself missing to Sergeant Kriel at the copshop but not Panjo.

Panjo, all zenned out, enjoys a little treehugging while waiting for his fave dish of chicken a la king

I wonder why? Could it be that Panjo the tiger is not a domestic pet? Wait. Let me mull over that possibility. Sure, Goosey enjoyed delusions of making him one but, no, tigers are not meant to kept in cages in some nutter’s back garden. Or in his bedroom for that matter.

Sorry to be pious or in any way paraat – or to spoil the sport of the media and those on Twitter and facebook who are having a field day with the elusive Panjo – but tigers belong in the wild. Duh. And if that’s not possible – and we humans have made it so – then in a proper facility where wild animals like Panjo can be looked after in the best possible way.

I don’t want to give others who live on Planet Goosey any bright ideas but would you keep a Great White shark in your swimming-pool? Would you keep an elephant in your TV room? Not if you wanted a decent view of The Animal Planet, you wouldn’t. Oh, never mind.

So, you chorus, Goosey brought Panjo up from when he was a cute little tiger cub. Sweet little pussycat. Oh, that’s OK then. They don’t grow very big. They don’t grow to have aggressive instincts. Just like Siamese cats, really. In fact, Goosey says so. And he should know. “Panjo’s very tame and won’t attack anybody,” said Panjo’s “owner”.

it gets better. While Panjo has everybody guessing about whether he’s snacking on a herdboy in Limpopo or dining on a Japanese tour group in Mpumalanga, Goosey comes up with this helpful hint: “Whoever sees Panjo must point a stick at him and say ‘no’, or offer him a chicken.”

Well, I’ll be blowed. I think we need a little more information than that. Like, does Panjo like his chicken mildly spiced or does he prefer it done simply with just a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprig of parsley? And, if he says “I didn’t order that. Take it back to the chef and tell him to do it again or I’ll eat both of you”, do I just point my stick at him and say “No”?

I don’t know. Look. I might be wrong but I think nature’s beasts deserve to be kept away from dangerous humans like Goosey. They deserve some respect. And some dignity. And to be given their space.

Maybe, instead of being held captive under the supervision of good old Goosey, all tigers, alien to South Africa nogal, should be kept at John Varty’s Tiger Canyons set-up. None of his tigers, bred responsibly in captivity to boost dwindling population numbers, have been spotted at the roadside begging for chicken a la king. Or begging to be shot by some hunter idiot.

Tigerbomb, believed to be the only white tiger born in the wild, with her mother Julie at Tiger Canyons Pic: Daryl Balfour

Now that’s more like it. Would somebody please shoot Goosey Fernandes. And all of the other ignoramuses who keep wild animals captive as some sort of macho extension of themselves. Thank you.

* See more of Daryl Balfour’s magnificent wildlife photography by cautiously stalking over here.

Fred Hatman
Fred Hatman (AKA Howard Donaldson) knew he wanted to be newspaper journalist at age 13. He has worked as a reporter and sub-editor for the Daily News and Cape Times, both based in South Africa and Wimbledon News, Today, London Daily News, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, all based in London .
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