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Newsletter 24
20/07/09

A Shot in Anger - Press Release


On the 10th of July 2009, I went out early to see if I could find the Tigress Shadow and her cubs.
Her three cubs were now 6 months old, but remained exceedingly shy. To date, I had only captured 2 shots of the cubs disappearing into the thick bush.

 
One of the reasons the cubs remained shy, was that Tigress Shadow had become increasingly difficult to film. She had got into the habit of biting the tyres of my adapted Mahindra vehicles.
 
Although I had tried everything from electrifying, to iron grids around the wheels, all had failed, as this sly Tigress continued to cause havoc, ripping more than 10 expensive tyres over the last 18 months.
 
Today I had four brand new heavy duty tyres on the vehicle, valued at R7 500.
 
I found her feeding on a blesbuck she had killed and thinking that she would not attack my wheels because she was distracted by her kill, I stopped the vehicle near her and began to film.
 
There was no sign of the cubs but I suspected they were hiding in the tall elephant grass nearby.
 
For 10 minutes she fed off the kill and then got up and moved away from the vehicle. Suddenly, she turned and charged the vehicle. Before I could start the engine, she had bitten through the front right tyre.
 
I could hear the air rushing from the punctured wheel, so I immediately started the engine and tried to drive myself out of the hunting area.

 
After 300 metres, it becomes obvious that the tyre and wheel rim would soon be a write off. The dilemma I faced, was how do I change the tyre in an area with tigers roaming around.
 
I called on the radio for back up and Andries, my assistant, came out to help me change the tyre. We had just begun to change the tyre, when out of the tall grass came Tigress Shadow, heading fast towards my vehicle, intent on biting the second tyre.
 
I was exceedingly angry, I had already lost one tyre and a chance to film the cubs.
 
I reacted instinctively and pulled out the 44 Smith and Wesson revolver, which I  carry and fired into the ground in front of the charging tigress.
 
The tigress spun around and ran back into the tall grass. As she ran I noticed that she carried her rear right leg in the air.
 
Surely it was not possible that the bullet had hit the tigress?
 
After changing the tyre I set off to find Tigress Shadow. My worst fear was realized when I found her lying on her back with her paws in the air. Through the binoculars I could see an ugly gash on the bottom of her pad on the rear right leg. The bullet must have deflected off the ground upwards just catching her across the pad.
 
 
I felt gutted to say the least! The question was, were any bones broken? The only way to find out would be immobilize the tigress.
 
I called Dr Charlotte Moueix, a vet from Bloemfontein, who came immediately.
 
We estimated her weight at 180 kilograms and used a dose of 50mg zoletil and 4mg medetomidine to dart Tigress Shadow.
 

Within 4 minutes she was down and now we could examine carefully the damage to the pad and paw.

 

The deep gash through the pad would heal, but right at the tip of the second digit on her paw, the bone was broken. It can be likened to a fracture on a small toe on the foot of a human being.

 
Would she walk with a limp, would her speed be affected, would she be able to hunt for her cubs, had I crippled this magnificent tigress for life? These were the questions racing through my mind.
 
 
On reflection, I deeply regret that I didn't fire the shot into the air, instead of firing in front of her.
 
I have tried to understand the "wheel biting behavior" of the Tigress. Is she trying to keep the vehicles away from her and the cubs? This is not likely, because she bit tyres before she had cubs. In addition, she regularly sprays the vehicles with marking fluid like all the dominant tigers do.
 
I believe the moving tyre going round and round simulates moving prey. Rubber is a relatively soft substance similar to the skin of a prey animal. In short, she can get her teeth through the side of the tyre where the rubber is softer.
 
I challenge all the tyre manufacturers to come up with a tyre that is tiger proof.
 
It would be interesting to see what pound pressure Tigress Shadow is exerting on the tyre when she bites it.
 
Tigers are known to be able to exert 1000 lbs/ per square inch biting power. The  male tigers regularly kill large tortoise at Tiger Canyons. To do this, they must exert huge pressure.
 
The heavy duty tyre is wide and thick, its not the easiest shape to bite, yet she bites through with ease.
 
In the case of Tigress Shadow, what started as a mischievous game, has now become an obsession. Our response will be to reinforce the wheel grids and electrify them to counter act her wheel attacks.
 
Will she recover completely, will she be just as fast, will she continue to be a  good hunter? Time will tell. I will keep you informed every step of the way.
 
Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV 

Response to newsletter:

28/07
Well I would have to say I did not enjoy this latest update. . as I am sure you did not enjoy the experience. Funny how we humans are quick to decide that the tiger is now the problem. Surely the vehicle is the problem!? I am not surprised to hear that a wild animal of such magnitute would
prefer to be left alone at times - especially in motherhood? I hope you come up with a better way of doing things, for both your and the tiger and the vehicles' sake!! I hope you are otherwise well.
Good luck!
Sarah
24/07
Although it requires some effort, something even better (and cheaper) than pepper spray to keep critters of all kinds from biting/chewing on stuff, is to put crap of some sort on it! My method is to use dog poop (most readily available to me), mix it with some water in a bucket (that you don't wish to use for anything else!) till it is a nice, sludgey texture, then using an old brush, simply paint it on your tires! You must reapply frequently, though. Cheap, 100% biodegradable, all natural repellent! It might be disgusting, but that's why it works!
Lane Batot

24/07
Good morning
I have just read your article on the Tiger that eats tyres.  I do not believe this is a unique phenomenon, many years ago (1966) in Kenya we parked a Piper Cub overnight on a runway at Maasai Mara.  The next morning when we arrived at the plane there was a pride of lions sitting in the shade under the wings and the tyres were completely destroyed.  Fortunately Keekorok Lodge had some wheelbarrows and we borrowed their wheels to enable takeoff.  Similarly a colleague of mine while visiting the Lion Park had a chunk bitten out of the plastic bumper on his  Toyota Tazz.
Maybe a suggestion would be to get some heavy ply steel reinforced radial tyres and then get them retreaded with a heavy gauge retread.  We did this in Kenya with a Land Rover to stop the bush stumps and thorns from ripping up the tyres.  Unfortunately the tyres still got wrecked but it took much longer.
A couple of alternative suggestions.
1 Use a tracked vehicle eg; a modified small bulldozer.
2 Use an elephant.  Buy a well trained Indian Elephant.  I hear Boswells may be forced into closure they may have a few to sell.  (and maybe a tiger or two)
3 Load a few blanks in your gun or carry some big firecrackers.
The article was interesting and may I congratulate you on your efforts to conserve Tigers.
Regards
Greg

23/07/09
Hey JV
Could I suggest that you try pepper spray on your tyres to keep her away?
Is it possible that the tyres are picking up the scent of the other tigers when you drive through the other areas? It is possible that you are collecting scent from urine or feaces and she is responding to this. I donít know it might be the case. But I would try possibly cleaning them with some strong detergent after visiting one of the camps and before visiting her and possibly using pepper spray as a deterrent.
Keep well
Warmest regards
Steve Faulconbridge

21/07/09
I might  be shooting in the dark, but it might even be a deficiency-her biting tyres?!
I'm sure she will be fine, humans are alfa not animals. Maybe the hurt paw will be a bad association to tyres and she'll quit.
Thanks for the little update!

Ronel Cousins

21/07/09
How about some chainmail on the tyres. The stuff they use when swimming with sharks. Have no idea which has the most bite pressure but its worth a try. Or make a housing round the tyre. Some speed boats have this round their propellers. Solid rubber tyres maybe. Good luck.
T Blom
 

Tread lightly on the Earth

info@jvbigcats.co.za
Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


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