Extract from JV's Speech on Corbett's Freedom Day
Corbett finally free, after 2.5 years in captivity
"As a kid I would travel around the country with
my mother playing in the tennis tournaments.
When I was reluctant to practise, my mother would
always remind me "you know what Gary Player says, the harder he
practises... the luckier he gets!" Gary became my role model and inspiration in my
Gary and Vivienne Player, supporters of Tiger Canyons for many years
After being selected for the South African Schools
Cricket Team and offered a contract to play professional cricket
overseas, I was determined to pursue a sporting career and then my
The executors of my father's estate had advised
my mother to sell our game farm in the Sabi Sand to pay for her
I begged my mother not to do this. I would give
up everything to save our game farm. My mother Madie Varty, God bless
her, supported me and my brother Dave and Londolozi was born. I now
moved from the sporting world into the conservation arena.
Dr Ian Player with his lifelong mentor Magqubu Ntombela
During the first 6 years of Londolozi's life, I
took children into the bush on wilderness trails. Underprivileged,
over-privileged, deaf & blind children, young criminals all spent
nights sleeping in the bush on trail. Each kid would have to keep
watch around the fire for one hour at night.
The architect of the wilderness movement in
South Africa was Gary Player's brother, Dr Ian Player. Ian Player's
wilderness trails in Umfolozi Game Reserve, changed the lives of
hundreds of South African children and indeed as it became a global
phenomenon, it gained many ambassadors for wilderness and wild places
around the world.
Under Ian Player's guidance the Natal Parks
produced many fine conservationists who would play a significant
role in conservation around the world. Men like Ken Tinley, who
changed the face of habitat at Londolozi and was the first person to
show me that if parks are to survive, they must share with
surrounding communities. Tony Pooley became a world authority on
crocodiles and Jim Feely was perhaps the most knowledgeable trail officer
in the world at that time.
For the next 20 years I lived in Kenya and Zambia
making over 40 wild life movies. Many of these movies were an
extension of the wilderness conservation message. Many boys and
girls have told me that they have pursued a career in conservation
having been influenced by a Londolozi Production.
The big cats have always fascinated me and in
2000 I dedicated my life to saving the most endangered of the big
cats, the Tiger!.
When I started my Tiger project, there were a
reputed 5 000 wild tigers and 45 000 in captivity (today there are
around 1 000 wild tigers and 60 000 in captivity).
Once again the inspiration to try and save the
tiger was Ian Player.
Ian Player in the late 50's and early 60's,
while head of The Capture Unit for Natal Parks, had pulled the white rhino
back from a mere 50 and distributed it around the world.
If ever there is a lesson for the South African
Government it is this: Give the white rhino to those who can
protect it. Put it on ranches which are smaller than large national
parks who cannot protect it. Incentivise land holders and farmers to
warehouse them. Do what the Natal Parks did - distribute them!.
Gary, if you would pass on to Ian, we will not let
him down. We will win the war against the rhino poaching syndicates.
It will be costly and people & rhino's will die, but we will not let
his hard work, vision and dedication become undone.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you think we have a
rhino crisis & we most certainly do have a crisis, let me remind you
that South Africa has 22 000 wild rhino.
The wild tiger is down to perhaps 1 000 and losing
1 a day to poaching, illegal hunting & loss of habitat.
rhino suffers from the price of its horn, the tiger suffers from
the sale of its body parts. According to the Chinese, the skin,
teeth, claws, fat, urine, penis & whiskers all have medicinal
properties and the massive market in China creates an unprecedented
demand for these body parts.
Today in India, the tiger competes with 300
people per square kilometre for space, habitat, prey & water. This
is a race the tiger simply cannot win.
My decision in 2 000 to try to
save the tiger outside the Asian continent has been correct.
People came from as far as Australia, Holland &
Cape Town to see Corbett set free, I thank you sincerely for your
Sponsorship of Ussuri's cubs:
I would like to thank Margaret Pang from
Singapore who has sponsored Ussuri's 3 cubs. Margaret has named the
female cub Marguerite, the lighter male Antoine and the smaller male
James (pronounced Jamez).
Winner of the cub naming competition:
I would like to congratulate Shelley Downing and
Leanne Kelly for the 2 names chosen by the judges.
Orion - a hunter in Greek mythology... the name
of the stars named by Shelley Downing and
Odin - a Norse god, meaning 'the furious one"
named by Leanne Kelly.
Shadow's two cubs are now called Orion and Odin.
The bolder one is Odin and the more shy one is Orion.
I would like to thank Porsche South Africa
for holding various fund raising evenings for the tigers. My
sincere thanks to Philani Cebekhulu who made the most generous
donation. Also thanks to Piet van Blerk en Alex Baisch for their
The money will be used to purchase prey
animals for Tiger Corbett's area and strategic water holes for
all our wild tigers. Many thanks to Toby Venter (CEO Porsche
South Africa), Jessica Baker (Group Communications Manager
Porsche South Africa), Wanda Coleman & Natasha Xavier from
Porsche for their wonderful support.
There is no truth in the rumours that game drives
in future at Tiger Canyons will be run in a Porsche Macan.
However, Seatao (222 Kilograms) on top of the
Porsche Macan would make for some riveting viewing and some
interesting low angle photography.
Cathedral in the Wild
"Cathedral in the Wild", Boyd Varty's book, is
without doubt the funniest book I have ever read.
interested in Africa and wild animals - it is a must read.
thing, any reference to Uncle John, you should not believe a single
thing Boyd Varty says.
Tread Lightly on the Earth