Panjo is home safely and the residents of Bronkhorstspruit can now breathe easier. Over the past two days, I will admit to enjoying telling friends abroad that wild animals do roam the streets of South Africa.
Trackers, sniffer dogs and local farmers combed a wide area in search of the young tiger, while the rest of the nation followed developments closely. The prospect of a tiger on the loose had us all a little uncomfortable. Now that he's back home, the questions have started. Do the big cat's owners have the appropriate legal documentation? Did they conform to safety standards when transporting the tiger to the vet? You really need to know what you're doing if you own a powerful predator like Panjo.
Of course, we're all experts on how they should have secured the great animal en route to the doc. Many of us are quick to condemn "irresponsible" people who "clearly" don't have the correct permits to own an endangered animal. "A tiger as a pet?" people ask incredulously.
Judaism prefers that we direct questions inwards, rather than point fingers. So, besides the fact that we should ensure that our own pets pose no threat to the public (admittedly, I'm extra sensitive since our neighbour's dog went for Mendy last week), what else can we learn from the tiger on the loose?
We all possess a wild animal. It lives within us and is usually docile. Over time, we start to believe that our inner-animal is just so cute and friendly and would never hurt a fly. Then, when we least expect it, our animal breaks out and starts running wild. Our animal may be anger, pride, stubbornness or passion. We won't now how it got out and we probably won't know how to get it back in.
Prevention is best, of course. Every person needs to be honest enough to learn the nature of their own animal. Anger and pride need to be restrained in the right cages and stubbornness or passion must be trained to express themselves appropriately. Without the right safeguards, you could have a disaster on your hands. Animals need owners to control them. G-d gave us an inner-animal and challenged us to become responsible owners.