Don't Shoot The Messenger
As predicted, my last newsletter drew attention from
a wide variety of people. Some people hate the idea, some think it’s a
good idea, others don’t know. Some want to crucify me. There is no
shortage of passion in this emotive issue.
For me it is fascinating to see how the scientist,
the artist, the businessman, the hunter, the mother and the
conservationists tackle the same problem.
Let me say from the outset that my grandfather and my
father were both hunters. I grew up in a hunting environment (it is well
documented in my book "Nine Lives").
I understand only too well the ego, the adrenalin
rush, the thrill of the chase, the money that goes with hunting. I also
understand the futility of killing a magnificent creature like a tiger.
I personally rejected hunting a long time ago.
In my newsletter "Ambassador Cats", I describe how I
fell in love with a cat in 1979, the Mother Leopard. Since this time I
have been in love with a string of lions, leopard, tigers and
cheetahs. Mother Leopard, Manana, Shingalana, Lioness Savannah, Tigress
Julie, Shine a Light, Tibo, Ussuri, Zaria, Cheetah mother Shashe… the
list goes on and on.
I could no more hunt these cats than fly to Mars and
However in this emotional roller coaster that I have
embarked on are flaws. In 2 000, I wrote a mission statement:
"To assemble 100 000 hectares of land where a free
ranging wild population of tigers can be created outside the Asian
The emotional journey I have traveled, may not have
equipped me to achieve this objective, in fact it may be my Achilles
Consider the words of Professor Willem van Riet:
"Emotions can take you to a point but no further. Without value, in the
end you will lose".
In the words of an anonymous businessman "Varty’s an
idiot, he has 4 non-productive males over 10 years old. Why doesn’t he
hunt them at $150 000 each and buy the farm next door for more tigers".
The majority of anti hunters are concerned that 75
male tigers will die over a period of 15 years (This is assuming that I
can get a permit to hunt them, which I wont).
As the scientists point out, if I am hunting 5 male
tigers a year, then I should have a population of 50 male tigers.
If my ratio male:female is 1:2, then I have 50 males
and 100 females.
If I have 100 females each producing an average of 2
cubs every 2 years. Then 100 extra cubs are being born each year.
If the present population of wild tigers is 1 500,
then with a population of 150 tigers, Tiger Canyons would have 10% of
the worlds wild population.
If the wild tiger is declining at 1 per day, then in
15 years Tiger Canyons may have 40 or 50 or 60% of the worlds wild tiger
Against these numbers the sacrifice of 15 males does
not look so bad.
But it's not an all or nothing scenario. If you have
a park of 100 000 hectares you can say no hunting 50 000 hectares and
hunting in the other 50 000 hectares.
You could say only males of over 10 years old can be
hunted. Fifty percent of the hunts could be green (a green hunt is one
where the tiger is darted but not killed).
However there is more than tigers at stake.
On 100 000 hectares, 2 000 jobs can be created in the
area of Philippolis (Philippolis is the 4th poorest town in South
Africa. The infrastructure of Philippolis is rapidly declining). 200
White rhino and 50 black rhino can be warehoused for the National Parks
Board (warehousing is where the rhino are owned by the National Parks
Board but the private sector protect them. The province of the Free
State has lost 2 rhino to poaching in the last 4 years).
The land-use system changes from destructive sheep to
indigenous wildlife: 200 000 springbuck, 50 000 blesbuck, 25 000 blue
wildebeest graze amongst buffalo, giraffe, rhino etc.
Lion, leopard, cheetah, tiger, wild dog and spotted
hyena all co-exist.
The Serengeti of the South is no longer a
pipe-dream….it is a reality. A living testimony to what can be achieved
with vision, resolve and money.
However, without the money it remains a pipe-dream. I
have been to the banks, the interest rates are crippling. I have
searched for a champion without success. Now I am exploring the hunters.
I am purely the messenger.
"Don’t shoot the messenger".
Tread lightly on the Earth