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Newsletter 89
05/02/13

Where are the Champions?

Hello Friends,

Over the last 12 years of trying to save the wild tiger, I often wonder whether I am not losing the battle. Is it not an exercise in futility? 

Consider the following:

1) The worlds human population has moved through 7 billion.

2) China and India, two tiger countries, have a combined population of 3.1 billion people.

3) In India, tigers compete with 320 people per square kilometer.

4) The wild tiger has declined to about 1000. A wild tiger a day is destroyed.

5) Recently the tiger has gone extinct in the several game parks in India

6) 60,000 tigers languish in cages and zoos, circuses and private collections around the world. (China has 2 safari parks with over 1000 tigers in captivity)

7) In the last 5 years, massive trades in tiger body parts have been uncovered in India, China and non tiger countries like South Africa.

8) A poacher or disgruntled government official can get $15 000 for the body parts of a dead tiger.

9) Asian governments remain hopelessly apathetic to saving the wild tiger and it remains a very low priority. 

There have been some high points but they are few and far between:

  • President Putin, at the tiger conference in St Petersburg, pledged $1 billion for tiger conservation. Since this time he was granted the soccer world cup, so it will be interesting to see whether his $1 billion does not disappear into soccer stadiums.

  • The actor Leodardo Di Caprio gave $3 million to the World Wide Fund for Nature for Tiger Conservation.

Finding a champion 

Of the high profile, rich individuals in the world, none have seen fit to champion the cause of saving the Tiger .

  • Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have put money into fighting malaria.

  • Laxmi Mittel (4th richest man in the world and Indian) has never taken to the Tiger cause.

  • Tedd Turner has put money into land and American buffalo.

  • Richard Branson has a game lodge in the Sabi Sands of South Africa and appears to be more invested in African wildlife than Asian. 

  • Patrice Motsepe, a regular visitor to Londolozi, has made a great deal of money from mining ventures and owns a soccer club.

  • Johan Rupert recently purchased a buffalo bull for R40million. This bull will cover buffalo cows which will produce bulls with large horns which overseas hunters will pay a great deal of money to shoot. 

In short, the tiger desperately needs a champion with vision, tenacity, resolve and money. Sadly there are none forthcoming.

Tiger Canyons has the only expanding wild population of tigers (20 tigers). The Tiger Canyons experiment still has to prove that it is sustainable over a long period of time. (more than twenty years)

I have urged African governments and South African National Parks to create National Parks in South Africa for tigers. I argue that if we play cricket against India and trade with India, can't we help them save an endangered species?  After all we live on one planet, a self regulating system.

I argue that if the two of the great leaders, Mahatma Gandhi from India and Nelson Mandela from South Africa were alive today, surely they would agree to work together to save the Tiger.

There are scientists at Wits University who claim that the tiger was once on the African continent and went extinct.

"If we save the Tiger,
we save the forests, the rivers, the birds, the fish, the fowl
and indeed the entire Pyramid of Life".

My opinion is that we are all Gaian children (Gaia is the Greek Goddess of the Earth). But Gaia's human children now number in excess of 7 billion. The resources of this planet are finite. The wild tiger represents those rapidly diminishing resources. The demise of the tiger is a red light, blinking for all of mankind.

"If we cannot save a magnificent creature like the tiger,
we cannot save ourselves".

On one dark morning, when I felt that trying to save the wild tiger was too daunting, I opened my email and there was an inspiring letter from retired warden, Dr Pablo. After reading his letter, I dusted off, repaired my dented ego and went back to work.

Dear Mr. Varty,

I hope you know that I retired from Indian Forest Service in February 2012 and am now a consultant to the Government of Bangladesh under a World Bank funded project.
When I switched my TV on today, Living with Tigers was on show. While watching it I thought of writing to you that this film is actually responsible for the idea and success of Panna reintroduction. I watched this movie way back, I think in 2005, and started thinking of inviting someone like you to reintroduce captive bred tigers in some of our national parks which have good prey base but no tigers. But before we could do anything concrete, although a project proposal was prepared, we lost our Panna tiger population, and we started thinking of rebuilding that population. As we had wild tigers available, we did not think of captive tigers for this purpose but my confidence that tigers can be reintroduced basically stemmed from seeing you guys in the film. But after the success in establishing the first 3 tigers, in an unfenced 700 sq km park, we found it difficult to identify more wild candidates for translocation to Panna and I started thinking of  using the two orphans growing up in captivity in Kanha. We started giving them wild animals (driven into their boma rather ingeniously) to feed and learn hunting in their 6 Ha boma. They had killed about 300 deer, and had no direct human contact for nearly 3-4 years, when we released them in Panna. But as these tigers had not gone through the kind of routine I saw in the film, I was worried that their limited experience of hunting in an enclosed space may not be enough in the wild. However, these tigresses surprised us with their success as they did not seem to miss any skill which their mothers could have taught them. One of them has already had two litters and raised them successfully. Unfortunately, the second one has not littered despite mating regularly. In fact, before we started this project, I had a thought that we should introduce only breeding tigresses so that their is no risk of any stray gynecological problems interfering with the project. Perhaps my hunch has come true as one of the 4 tigresses taken to Panna seems to have a gynecological problem. As we did not have the time, money and the expertise that you had to train the tigers for introduction in the wild, I had to take the risk of releasing them in the wild without the preparation that you would have approved. I took this risk, despite huge opposition, on the premise that we had nothing to lose, even if the tigresses did not establish in the wild. In the worst case scenario, we  would have had to shoot them or capture them. That would have been, in some ways, no loss to conservation as they had not come from the wild. But, thanks to your pioneering work, the tigresses have done well and the Panna population is already over 20 (I have not had information of any recent births or deaths). Perhaps, the wild tigers will never go extinct now and if they do, we can bring them back to the wild from zoos. I think a lot of the credit will go to you for showing the way, if we ever have to reconstruct tiger populations again. Just thought you should know that we are grateful.

With Best Wishes,
Dr. HS Pabla IFS (Retd.)
Bhopal, India.

I am reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela.

 


Cheetah Release

The release of Shashe and Mara 15 months old brought back memories of my years filming cheetah in the Masai Mara. 

Tiger Canyons has areas of long grass connected with short grass. This allows the classic East African stalk through the tall grass and then the dash across the short grass to catch the springbuck. 

Photographers and filmmakers will need long lenses to capture the action as there two magnificent cats hit their straps. 

Hares, steenbuck, springbuck and young blesbuck will be the favoured prey. 

Tiger Canyons is now the only place in the world where one can photograph wild tiger and wild cheetah.


Tiger Swimming Safari - with Kumba & Aurora

I have pleasure in announcing a unique safari on offer for a limited time.  The itinerary is as follows: 

Day 1:

Arrive in Philippolis late afternoon
Dinner at Oom Japie se Huis
Accommodation at Starry Nights Karoo Cottages.

Day 2:

Early morning game drive searching for Ussuri and the cubs
Breakfast on the platform
After breakfast, transfer to 'Tigress Julie Riverboat' on the Van der Kloof Lake. (The luxury riverboat sleeps four guests)
Afternoon - exploring across the lake hunting and swimming with tigers
Dinner on the boat
After dinner - 'In the Jaws of the Tiger' concert

Day 3:

Early morning hunting with tigers and swimming
Breakfast on the boat
In the afternoon - game drive looking for cheetah and tigers. 
(Optional helicopter flight over the lake)
Dinner at Tiger Canyons
Accommodation - Starry Nights - Philippolis

Day 4:

Leave from Philippolis 


Tread lightly on the Earth
JV


Response

We agree completely and cannot wait to be with you in November to enjoy the tigers and cheetahs and hopefully get photos we can use to help increase the level of awareness and help to save these awesome animals. 

Bob and Lucie Fjeldsta


JV,

Just an off-the-wall suggestion in response to  your question.  I'm not your person; my pockets are deep but not nearly that deep.  ;)  But there are two singers where you might have a "hook" if you can contact them or their publicist: Katy Perry (recent hit "Roar" talking about "eye of the tiger" and perhaps Frankie Sullivan from the group Survivor (one of the biggest hits of all time, "Eye of the Tiger" of the movie Rocky III fame).  I have no clue whether either would be interested but it might be worth a chance.  I should note that I spent a couple of weeks last year with John Kay, lead singer of Steppenwolf (most famous song, "Born to be Wild" in the movie Easy Rider).  John has been active with OFI and helping to preserve orangutan habitat.  He's also not deep-pocketed enough to be your champion, but remembering him made me think that a "whale" rocker like Katy Perry would be and also might bring along a lot of publicity, depending on her interest.  Good luck.

Also, you mention a unique safari for a limited time.  Any idea what time frame and what price?  I look forward to coming back with Marsel and Daniella in June but might have the ability to squeeze in another trip over and would likely combine that with a longer stop in Madagascar.  Thanks for any information.

Rich Sheehan


Hi John,

I read this with interest and have worked on projects with animals that are not regarded as sexy and charismatic by the NGO's, activists etc and the reality I believe is that true conservationists are more endangered than any species. Sadly and for the most the level of interest and the regard to the vulnerability and marketing support of a species is directly proportionate to the funding that can be raised...... just over 14 million euros now destined for rhino poaching, ......including procedures proven to not work....... But the marketing is great! Sadly too I find that for the most the loudest voices have never worked in conservation.....and so it's all about the buck.....no horns and hooves, but a bankable and corruptible buck all the same.

After some 23 years in conservation and conservation broadcasting, it appears that we are not saving anything or creating a holistic environment for species to save themselves.....in the a sense of man they all do dam well......but we are in broadcasting and conservation, documenting the decline so the natural world, one day at a time.......

Put a rhino horn on your tigers, on the cheetah that we personally have an interest in and the Warburgia Salutaris tree.........and they too will have their profiles raised but all in sundry.

Best of luck sir, I do hope I am wrong. 

Tim Neary

The Nature Journal


Hi John, don't ever give up please we need people like you . I am a volunteer on Glen Garriff Lion Reserve in Harrismith and I know how hard it can be to struggle on and keep fighting the many factions thatare split down the middle. Our lions are happy , well fed and the genetic line is pure.

These are the happiest days of my life, talking to lions, feeding them , taking care of them . I know how you feel about your babies , the same as me.

Good luck in everything you try and keep going so many people appreciate all your efforts . One day where will the future generations see lions and tigers , what do we say to them, we never tried to save them, you can't say that.

Warmest regards

Kathy


Dear John, 

You are doing a wonderful job never ever give up! 

Rgards, 

Gaie Fergusson


Hi Jon,

I love your website and your work. I wish there were some impressive videos about tigers (like a tiger bringing down a bull eland or tigers on a bull eland kill etc.).

I liked your post on which cats have the best eye-sight. I have some more information that could be helpful to you.

There was a British wildlife photographer called F.W.Champion about a 100 years back in India. As far as I know he was the first person to photograph living wild tigers in the wilds of India. He was also the first person to camera trap wild animals in the Indian forests. In fact, until he camera-trapped honey badgers in Himalayan forests, a lot of people had no clue, that honey badgers existed there.

His work was mainly in Himalayan forests, foothills and valleys of the Himalayas (almost exactly the same areas where Jim Corbett hunted - the Himalayan Terai). 

In any case, he published 2 books "With a camera in Tiger land" and "Jungle in Sunlight and Shadow". Both are excellent books, especially the second book.

In that book he writes about the difference in eye-sight of tigers and leopards. What he tells is that, camera-trapping tigers was relatively easy when compared to camera-trapping leopards.

While tigers would blunder into the camera trip-wires, the leopards would invariably see the trip-wires and step over them (he would deduce this when looking at the pug-marks of the animal and the untripped picture the next morning when he used to collect the traps). 

He mentions strongly that he could manage to camera-trap leopards only when he used thinnest and "blackest" of the trip wires on the darkest nights (when there was no star-light).

He concluded that either leopards had superior vision or they were instinctively more cautious than tigers.

Through his camera trap pictures, he mentions and shows how much the pupils of the big cats dilated at night. 

He also mentions unless one spends a night in a jungle when it is so dark that one can't even see one's arm, only then can one appreciate the vision and perception of a big cat which can stalk and bring down a large prey in that darkness.

I thought it was a very interesting observation from him.

Another thing is about the much debated lion-tiger fight.

I don't know from where the myth has generated that male lions have evolved to fight while male tigers have evolved to hunt. The only people who can say this are people who have never spent time studying wild tigers  in places like Nagarhole or Kanha or Kaziranga in India where the population density of tigers is quite high.

It is sad to see people like Dave Salmoni or other "Scientists" who have never studied a wild tigers or wild lions in their habitat and in their prime spreading this myth. Please ask scientists like Ullas Karanth or Raghu Chundawat or AJT Johnsingh (all of whom have studied male tigers in wilds of India) before coming such conclusions.

I also think these people should read first lion books of George Schaller, Brian Bertram and Craig Packer (great Scientists who spent a lot of time in the wild studying wild lions). All of whom stress on how far male lions go to avoid fighting. In fact, in the combined 6 years of study of Schaller and Bertram, they saw only 1 serious male lion fight to the death.

In most fights, the smaller coalition quickly withdraws, runs away or submits. 

Another interesting thing is, African wildlife has been heavily filmed. We have seen professional films of wild lionesses adopting oryx calves, gnu calves. We have seen wild leopards showing maternal instinct to an abandoned lion cub. 

But despite all this, I have not seen a single professional film showing male lions fighting to the death. 

The recent amateur videos of serious fights between the ousted Mopogo, Majingilane and Selati coalitions in Kruger/Londolozi area are the only existing videos of male lions fighting to the death. Even in those cases, the coalition with larger number of prime-males overwhelmed the out-numbered coalition.

If male lions fought so frequently as claimed by Salmoni and other "scientists", shouldn't there be many more professional videos showing them in serious fights? For sure, it would be far more frequent than lionesses adopting oryx calves, right? 

Now, lions are more gregarious than tigers. They are used to being in the spotlight (so to speak). They are used to being in the open or being in a "crowd". Tigers aren't. Like leopards, tigers avoid open spaces.

Despite the rarity of tigers, especially male tigers, there are so many documented (and photographed) male tiger fights to the death, even very recently. 

Around 3 years back, a huge male tiger called Konda in Kanha National Park, India was killed by the now dominant male Munna. Konda's face was ripped apart by Munna. 

Late Chip Houseman in his magnificent 1998 film "Tigers of Kanha" filmed the gruesome end to another male tiger fight to the death again in Kanha (with the defeated male tiger's face being torn apart). Belinda Wright captured another such fight in Kanha in her book on Tigers in the mid-80s. 

The male tiger "Arjun" was badly mauled in a fight with a male tiger "Snarl". Belinda actually rushed to the spot hearing the sounds of the vicious fight.

Considering tigers are so rare, it is astonishing how frequently male tigers fight to the death were documented.

Circus fights would be advantageous to the lion since they are at home in a crowded place. But a one-on-one fight in the wild would be more advantageous to the tiger (really depends on the individual lion or tiger).

Thanks,

Uday


Dear Mr John

I read your newsletter today..i can understand feelings that are u able to help tigers or not..Ofcourse john you are helping tigers thats why people are taking inpiration from you..yor efforts are respective..but this is not the time to give up or to keeping your moral down..conserving tigers is neccessary not bcoz we love them..bt bcoz tigers need our help..and tigers are showing extreme fight to survive we only need to give them some help..as tigress machli is found after 26 days after long efforts by officials..wat a fighter this tigress is..she is 17 years of age she is weak she is facing many difficulties in hunting..her territory is taken by her doughter but still she is not ready to give up and fighting for her life..heads off to machli..she proved that she is queen of tigers..and she reminds me of tigress julie wat a amazing tigress she was..at last good luck to u Mr John..i m waiting for ur next newsletter..goodbye



 

Tread lightly on the Earth

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


Newsletters


Newsletter 144
08/05/17
Hunting versus Non Hunting

Newsletter 143
14/03/17
If it Pays, it Stays

Newsletters 142
14/02/17
Best Photographs at
Tiger Canyons

Newsletters 141
16/01/17
Lady Hunters

Newsletter 140
10/12/16
Londolozi and Love

Newsletter 139
23/11/16
Life is Not Fair

Newsletter 138
17/11/16
The Trump Card

Newsletter 137
22/10/16
Most Admired People on the Planet

Newsletters 136
13/10/16
Captive vs Wild

Newsletter 135
08/10/16
To trade  or not To Trade

Newsletter 134
08/08/16
A Defining Moment

Newsletter 133
08/07/16
I Have Lost A Friend

Newsletter 132
13/05/16
The World is Changing

Newsletter 131
08/04/16
Icon Cats

Newsletter 130
31/03/16
Sylvester the Lion

Newsletter 129
22/03/16
An Open Letter to Head United Nations

Newsletter 128
15/03/16
An Open Letter to Carte Blanche

Newsletter 127
28/11/15
Satellite Tracking

Newsletter 126
12/11/15
Lightning strikes 3 times

Newsletter 125
28/10/15
The Break Out

Newsletter 124
05/10/15
Bad Tigers

Newsletter 123
01/10/15
Tiger Boy's Journey

Newsletter 122
13/09/15
Give it a Name

Newsletter 121
10/09/15
Driven Hunts

Newsletter 120
01/09/15
Creative Conservation

Newsletter 119
12/08/15
Sariska from birth till death

Newsletter 118
11/08/15
Real Hunters

Newsletter 117
07/08/15
An Open Letter to the President: Operation Wild Lion

Newsletter 116
03/08/15
An Open Letter to Theo Bronkhorst

Newsletter 115
28/07/15
Cruel Nations

Newsletter 114
08/07/15
Subspecies or no subspecies

Newsletter 113
11/06/15
Tigers Moving Forward

Newsletter 112
13/04/15
Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Newsletter 111
26/03/15
Don't Shoot the Messenger

Newsletter 110
22/03/15
The Hunters

Newsletter 109
09/03/15
Gaia or God?

Newsletter 108
26/02/15
The Healing Power of Cats

Newsletter 107
18/02/15
Goddess Gaia

Newsletter 106
03/02/15
Ambassador Cats

Newsletter 105
24/01/15
Blondes have more fun

Invitation
09/01/15
Gaining ground for tigers

Newsletter 103
14/12/14
Tibo's Dilemma

Newsletter 102
05/12/14
Wilderness Man

Newsletter 101
25/11/14
Sariska fathers cubs with white Tigress Tibo

Newsletter 100
20/11/14
Cheetah Survival

Newsletter 99
30/09/14
Extract from JV's speech on Corbett's Freedom Day

Newsletter 98
15/08/14
The Power of the Picture

Newsletter 97
18/07/14
Tiger Corbett's Release

Newsletter 96
11/07/14
Corbett's Journey

Newsletter 95
18/06/14
Bush School: Where are they now?

Newsletter 94
12/05/14
Open letter to Jani Allen: Oscar Pistorius

Newsletter 93
07/05/14
John Varty interview with Sizie Modise

Newsletter 92
20/04/14
Marion's Big Cat Safari

Newsletter 91
24/02/14
Full energy flow

Newsletter 90
10/02/14
Investing in wild tigers

Newsletter 89
05/02/14
Where are the Champions?

Newsletter 88
27/01/14
Managing the Genes

Newsletter 87
16/01/14
Capture the Moment

Newsletter 86
07/12/13
The Princess Diana of Tigers - Julie:
 Sept 1999 - 5 Des 2013

Newsletter 85
26/11/13
The Communicators

Newsletter 84
26/11/13
A Letter to All Conservationists in SA 
Sparked by the whole Melissa Bachman Debacle
by Maxine Gaines

Newsletter 83
16/11/13
Tell me what happened

Newsletter 82
04/11/13
Profit is the Name of Your Game

Newsletter 81
30/10/13

Big Cat Cub Safari


Newsletter 80
18/10/13
In the Jaws of the Tiger

Newsletter 79
11/10/13
Open letter to Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 78
06/10/13
Open letter to Min of Defense, South Africa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 77
30/09/13
Digital Photography

Newsletter 76
06/09/13
Zoochosis

Newsletter 75
20/07/13
Rhino Horn Trade - Response

Newsletter 74
09/07/13
Raw Power

Newsletter 73
02/07/13
The Evolution of the Tracker

Newsletter 72
02/07/13
An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
06/06/13
Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
14/05/13
Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the best eyesight of them all?

Newsletter 69
12/04/13
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fastest of them all?

Newsletter 68
25/03/13
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best fighter of them all?

Newsletters 67
07/03/13
Wild Cheetah return to the Free State after 100 years

Newsletter 66
28/02/13
Seeking the genes

Newsletters 65
06/02/13
Corbett's Journey

Newsletters 64
22/01/13
In Search of a Mate

Newsletters 63
11/01/13
Rumble in the Jungle

Newsletters 62
30/10/12
Voronin Big Cat Safari Breaks All Records

Newsletters 61
09/12/12
A Journey to Nowhere

Newsletter 60
03/10/12
The John Hume Approach

Newsletter 59
28/09/12
Response to Rhino Horn Auction

Newsletters 58
24/09/12
A Letter to John Hume, SA biggest Rhino Breeder

Newsletters 57
05/09/12
Newsletters 56
01/08/12
Indian Government -
the wrong decision

Newsletter 55
11/07/12
What price must beauty pay?

Newsletter 54
21/04/12
Corbett's Freedom

Newsletter 53
15/04/12
Lethal injection or Freedom

Newsletters 52
04/04/12
The anatomy of an aggressive tiger

Newsletters 51
14/02/12
Majestic, breathtaking pictures

Newsletters 50
04/11/11
Tigress Calendar

Newsletters 49
19/11/11

Let your pictures do the talking

Newsletters 48
26/09/11

Rhino Wars

Newsletters 47
06/09/11
A Letter to the President

Newsletters 46
08/08/11
The Body Parts Scam

Newsletters 45
11/07/11
Tiger Subspecies

Newsletters 43
01/05/11
Your future and the Tiger

Newsletter 42
08/05/11
Talk to Me

Newsletter 41
26/01/11
Gaian Reminder

Newsletter 40
18/11/10
Ron's Journey

Newsletter 39
20/10/10
"Descreprimate"

Newsletter 38
06/09/10
Beauty comes at a price

Newsletter 37
18/08/10

The Light Has Gone Out


Newsletter 36
08/07/10
The Beautiful Game

Newsletter 35
05/07/10
The Ethics of
Tiger Green Hunting

Newsletter 34
21/06/10
Tiger Hunt

Newsletter 33
26/05/10
The Year of the Tiger

Newsletter 32
11/02/10

Riding the Tiger


Newsletter 31
24/01/10

Runti's Journey


Newsletter 30
12/01/10

To intervene or not to intervene -
that is the question...

Newsletter 29
07/12/09

Lion - Tiger - Human Communication


Newsletter 28
12/11/09

Emotional humans, emotional cats


Newsletter 27
03/11/09

Julie gives birth to 5 tiger cubs


Newsletter 26
24/09/09

International Tiger Day


Newsletter 25
17/08/09

To all Photographers


Newsletter 24
16/07/09

A Shot in Anger


Newsletter 22
24/04/09


Newsletter 21
24/03/09


Newsletter 19
14/01/09

Tiger Birth
at Tiger Canyons


Newsletter 16
10/10/08

Tiger Courting


Newsletter 11
29/01/08

Privatizing the Tiger


Newsletter 9
27/10/07

Newsletter 8
28/09/07

Newsletter 7
14/09/07

Water Cats


Newsletter 6
14/08/07

Tiger Intelligence


Newsletter 5
16/05/07

Tiger language
Tiger Boma


Newsletter 3
09/03/07

Interspecies communication


Newsletter 2
06/02/07

Cub relocation


Londolozi
Newsletters

Death of a Legend
17/08/09


Newsletter 20
10/02/09

Newsletter 15
17/08/08

Painted Wolves


Newsletter 13
11/04/08

Response to Elephant Trust
by Daryl Balfour


Newsletter 12
09/04/08

Elephant Trust