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Mystery surrounds fate of monitor lizard locked in school toilet

07 July 2016, 18:05 News24 Correspondent

Johannesburg - The fate of a monitor lizard which was photographed locked in a Cosmo City school toilet - and with a wire wound around its tail - remains unknown on Thursday, animal welfare organisation Claw said.

"It is really appalling... absolute cruelty. The wire is embedded in the animal; it must be suffering terribly," Cora Bailey, founder of the Community-Led Animal Welfare (Claw) organisation told News24.

She said that after being notified by a concerned person about the situation over the weekend, she had gone to the school premises in Cosmo City several times to try and gain access to the toilet - where the lizard had allegedly been kept for at least the previous three days.

On her first attempt to rescue the lizard on Sunday morning, Bailey was told by security that the SPCA had already collected it.

However, Bailey subsequently established that the SPCA had never been contacted and so she returned to the school on Monday.

Accompanied by veterinary staff and with equipment to free the lizard from the wire, Bailey was then granted access to all other school toilets, except the facility where she believed the lizard was being kept. When she tried to go to that toilet block, she was told the key had been lost.

'Why the lies'

She returned on Tuesday morning with metro police officials, who explained to the school that it illegal to keep the lizard in captivity. She said all the people she encountered at the school refused to identify themselves, but they did tell her that someone in a grey car had already come to remove it.

It was during this visit that Bailey then noticed that there was "blood outside the toilet block" which had not been there before.

"Why the lies and why not hand it over…?" Bailey asked.

Bailey said she suspected that the monitor lizard might have been kept to be used as muti.

When contacted for comment, the school gave News24 a number of contradictory statements.

A woman - who confirmed that she was the school principal, but who later put down the phone when asked to give her name - at first said that City Parks had taken the lizard away "yesterday" - on Tuesday.

However, at another point the woman said: "It’s been out of the school for a long time."

Furthermore, the woman later said that she did not have any knowledge of the lizard - particularly because it was school holidays.

"I don’t know it, I didn’t see it," she said.

'I'm not going to comment... because I'm on holiday'

She also said that she was "annoyed" by being contacted about the issue, and finally said: "I’m not going to comment about the lizard because I’m on holiday."

At a previous stage in the conversation, the woman offered News24 a cellphone number that she said belonged to the school secretary, "Catherine", who would be able to tell them who from City Parks had come to fetch the lizard.

However, the number was subsequently answered by a man who had no affiliation to the school, but said the number was accurate and had been his for three years.

Asked about the school’s claim that City Parks collected the lizard on Tuesday, City Parks spokeswoman Jenny Moodley confirmed that they had not done so.

Johannesburg Zoo Acting animals collection manager Ian Du Plessis also confirmed that while they had been contacted by Claw they had not been to the school to remove the lizard as this was under the jurisdiction of the governmental nature conservation law enforcement.

Bailey said that if the proof of the photograph was correct, the school was breaking the law as the lizard is an indigenous animal and cannot be kept without a permit.

Furthermore, it was being cruelly confined according to the stipulations of the Animal Protection Act

- News24


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