Cat burglar stopped in his tracks

A MYSTERIOUS cat burglar with a predilection for banana and avocado pear has been nabbed after indulging himself one time too many at a Summerstrand guest house. The light-footed intruder has been hanging around Bayside Guest House in Tiran Road for a year and a half but, having initially targeted the kitchen and diningroom, he had lately started venturing into guests’ rooms, owner Stephanie Hanks explained yesterday (January 16 2012).

“The turning point was when one of our guests who had been braaiing in our lapa returned to find him in his bedroom. There was great fright all round and, in the commotion, he escaped. That’s when we realised we must call in Arnold.”

Specialist wildlife capture expert Arnold Slabbert of Wildline visited the scene, and was perplexed.  The most obvious culprit was a vervet monkey. But they don’t forage at night. A dassie was out the picture for the same reason.

“Then bits of information started to come through indicating the creature was black and white. The feeling from the owners was it was a ratel or honey badger.

“I was totally thrown by that stage. Ratels are from the Mustelid family and they’re omnivorous, but they’re certainly not known to tuck into bananas in a big way.

“I did not think it was likely. But you can never tell with wild animals. So it was just possible.”

But a check of the perimeter wall revealed just one small access point, between the electric fencing, which involved scaling a smooth, 2m high wall – something no ratel could have done.

“So it was back to square one. My best thought at that stage, weighing up all the evidence, including the very faint spoor at the entry point, was that it was an escaped, tame bush baby, which was not impossible.”

In the meantime, the intruder had disdainfully ignored Slabbert’s two cage traps and was still helping himself from the fruit bowl each night.

Slabbert replaced the two big cage traps with a small light custom made trap designed by a friend who, coincidentally used to live round the corner from Tiran Road before he moved to the Cape. He baited it again with banana and avocado pear, and added some dog pellets, for which the thief had also shown a liking.

At 4am on Saturday, he received a triumphant call on his cell – the culprit was caught. He raced down to Tiran Road and confirmed the catch: a beautiful, male  large-spotted genet.

“I was blown away. It never crossed my mind it could be a genet because these guys are primarily ferocious predators. They eat everything from birds in their nests, to even hares.

“The most fruit in their diet in the wild is the odd berry.”

The clue to the Tiran Road fruit marauder, it seems, was that the animal was curiously friendly. Normally the species snarls when cornered, but this individual sniffed Slabbert’s hand.

“So it seems it was probably someone’s pet at some point, which is also where it picked up its funny eating habits.

The last twist to the story was when Slabbert phoned the friend who designed the successful cage.

“I told him the story and he said that before he left for Mossel Bay he had spotted a genet in his yard.  One wonders if it was the same animal.”

The species normally sticks close to water so the animal was released into the Baakens Valley in Sherwood.

Hanks said she was quite happy that a genet had chosen to visit them.

“But I think he is in a more appropriate place now.”



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