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Newsletter 114
01/07/15

Subspecies or No Subspecies 

Hello Friends 

When I started the Tiger Project in 2000, scientist were extremely critical of the project because I was not obeying the 8 sub species of Tigers listed. In other words their argument was I should be pursuing the Bengal OR the Siberian Tiger sub species, not both. 

However, the evidence for subspecies was flimsy to say the least. My instincts told me that all tigers were the same, just with local differences. A tiger in Siberia had a larger body because this is more efficient in colder climates. Tigers in the forest were smaller and had darker coats because this works better in the humid, hot forests of Central Asia. 

In my opinion, we should be spending less time on arguing about sub species and more time on finding land, fencing it, stocking with suitable prey and making the tiger accessible to a growing band of universal, digital photographers. 

Like we had done with the leopard at Londolozi, we could use the tiger to change the land use systems and create wealth in rural areas. 

If this could be achieved then this would be the first step in saving the wild tiger. 

The other crucial decision I took in 2000, was not to try to do the project in Asia. In Asia a tiger competes with over 100 human beings per square kilometer (at Tiger Canyons a tiger competes with sheep and 2 human being per square kilometer). 

Therefore to do an ex-situ conservation project in South Africa has proved to be correct and defining. 

Below are some of the questions that have been answered: 

1. Tigers will not adapt to African parasites (No tiger has been lost to an African parasite). 

2. Tigers will not be able to hunt African prey (Tigress Julie successfully hunted 14 African species in her lifetime). 

3. Tourists will not travel to Africa to view and photograph a tiger (68 nationalities have visited Tiger Canyons and this is growing).

4. The tiger has no place in the African ecosystem (it was never our intention to place the Tiger in an open ecosystem. The Tiger is inside fenced areas which have been reclaimed from bankrupt sheep and goat farms).

5. The tiger was never historically in Africa. (A group of scientists at Wits University are confident the tiger was in Africa and went extinct. In time they claim they will prove this fact). 

Opportunities missed: 

Only the province of the Free State had the vision to allow the ex situ conservation tiger project. Other provinces of Kwazulu, Eastern and Northern Cape outlawed the project. 

I respectively suggest the above provinces should put corruption aside and reconsider their decision.

The province of the Free State has greatly benefited in the field of job creation, change of land use and rural development via the tiger. 

I call on the South African National Parks to consider a large national park which accommodates lion, leopard, cheetah and tiger. 

No one individual, organization or government has had the vision to champion the tiger cause. 

While we spend billions of dollars daily on military, war and destruction of our planet, a coordinated tiger project could protect forests, river systems, and whole landscapes. This protection would translate into rural wealth, education, tourism, conservation and upliftment.  

Therefore it is with great satisfaction that I read a scientific paper which is both logical, practical and workable.  

I congratulate the scientists from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin for a valuable contribution to Tiger conservation.  

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV


Planning tiger recovery: Understanding intraspecific variation for effective conservation

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400175

Andreas Wilting1, Alexandre Courtiol, Per Christiansen, Jürgen Niedballa, Anne K. Scharf, Ludovic Orlando, Niko Balkenhol, Heribert Hofer, Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, Jörns Fickel and Andrew C. Kitchener

Although significantly more money is spent on the conservation of tigers than on any other threatened species, today only 3200 to 3600 tigers roam the forests of Asia, occupying only 7% of their historical range. Despite the global significance of and interest in tiger conservation, global approaches to plan tiger recovery are partly impeded by the lack of a consensus on the number of tiger subspecies or management units, because a comprehensive analysis of tiger variation is lacking. We analyzed variation among all nine putative tiger subspecies, using extensive data sets of several traits [morphological (craniodental and pelage), ecological, molecular]. Our analyses revealed little variation and large overlaps in each trait among putative subspecies, and molecular data showed extremely low diversity because of a severe Late Pleistocene population decline. Our results support recognition of only two subspecies: the Sunda tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica, and the continental tiger, Panthera tigris tigris, which consists of two (northern and southern) management units. Conservation management programs, such as captive breeding, reintroduction initiatives, or trans-boundary projects, rely on a durable, consistent characterization of subspecies as taxonomic units, defined by robust multiple lines of scientific evidence rather than single traits or ad hoc descriptions of one or few specimens. Our multiple-trait data set supports a fundamental rethinking of the conventional tiger taxonomy paradigm, which will have profound implications for the management of in situ and ex situ tiger populations and boost conservation efforts by facilitating a pragmatic approach to tiger conservation management worldwide.


Fewer than 4,000 tigers roam across the Asian continent today, compared to about 100,000 a century ago. But researchers are proposing a new way to protect the big cats: redefine them. 

The proposal, published this week in Science Advances, argues current taxonomy of the species is flawed, making global conservation efforts unnecessarily difficult. 

There are up to nine commonly accepted subspecies of tigers in the world, three of which are extinct. But the scientists' analysis, conducted over a course of several years, claims there are really only two tiger subspecies: one found on continental Asia and another from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. 

"It's really hard to distinguish between tigers," said Andreas Wilting, the study's lead author from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. "There has been no comprehensive approach. The taxonomies are based on data from almost a hundred years ago." 

The study, described by its authors as "the most comprehensive analysis to date," looked at the mitochondrial DNA, skulls, skin markings, habitat and prey of all nine tiger subspecies. It found a high degree of overlap in these traits between the continental tigers — spanning from Russia to Southeast Asia — and between the island-dwelling "Sunda" tigers. 

Nearly $50 million is spent worldwide to preserve the big cat each year, according to the Science Advances study, and there has been some progress made. 

The Amur tiger, found in Russia, has been on the rise over the past decade, with as many as 540 of the tigers in the wild, up from between 423 and 502 a decade ago, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Likewise the Bengal tiger population, was reported to have increased by 30 percent since 2010, according to India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority. 

The hope is that by simplifying the taxonomy, conservationists would have more flexibility in preserving the animals, such as by moving tigers from one area to the next. This is especially important for the South-China tiger, which is considered critically endangered numbers less than 100 in the wild. 

"They've gotten down to such low numbers that there's really little hope for them," Wilting said. 

The study reinforces evidence that tigers are perhaps the least diverse big cat in the world. It also supports a theory that there was a massive population decline after a super-eruption took place in Sumatra about 73,000 years ago, leaving only a single ancestor for all modern tigers from the South China area. 

But in a field where one of the biggest goals is to preserve the diversity in tigers, convincing people that tigers aren't really that diverse can be a challenge. This is not the first time tiger taxonomy has been challenged, but earlier proposals have had trouble gaining ground due to a lack of evidence. 

At the heart of the debate is a concept called "taxonomic inflation," or the massive influx of newly recognized species and subspecies. Some critics blame the trend in part on emerging methods of identifying species through ancestry and not physical traits. Others point to technology that has allowed scientists to distinguish between organisms at the molecular level. 

"There are so many species concepts that you could distinguish each population separately," Wilting said. "Not everything you can distinguish should be its own species." 

This concept of inflation becomes more pressing when animal habitats are destroyed. Populations affected by habitat loss often become increasingly isolated and more susceptible to genetic drift. Because there are fewer genes in the population pool, the animals change more rapidly and becomes more distinct — sometimes for the worst. 

This was especially true in the case of the Florida panther in the early 1990s, when the species was reduced to fewer than 30 individuals in the wild. Rampant inbreeding left the big cat inundated with genetic defects, such as heart problems and reproductive issues. 

Efforts to preserve the animal through captive breeding proved unsuccessful. Florida researchers, frantic to save the long-held state symbol, decided to take controversial action by introducing eight female Texas cougars in 1995. 

The result has been considered a success, as the cougars, a close genetic relative to the panther, were able to refresh the gene pool and stave off extinction. While the Florida panther is still considered endangered, there are now somewhere between 100 and 180 in the wild. 

Still, the case has sparked debate on whether the panther remains a pure subspecies. That's important because it may affect the priority placed on protecting the cat and its habitat by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

"It really depends on what you define a subspecies to be," said Dave Onorato, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who worked on the panther restoration project. "Perhaps they're now more close to what they were before they became inbred." 

Onorato said the Florida panther case could be held up as an example for people trying to protect big cats around the world, including the most stressed tiger populations. 

Worldwide conservation efforts have been put into place to double tiger counts by 2022, but many tiger populations remain under threat by poachers, habitat loss and climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund.


Release:

The following is an advertisement that will be placed in prominent wildlife magazines and eco newspapers in Asia:

Tigress release

Wanted: An area suitable to release a tigress (Panthera tigris tigris) and 3 cubs, 4 months old.

Description: The tigress, Zaria, is 6 years old and in perfect condition. The sex of the cubs is unknown. This is a wild tigress and outstanding hunter. The tigress is habituated to game viewing vehicles. The tigress will be fitted with a satellite tracking transponder.

Criteria: The following criteria is essential:

1) The area must be 15 000 Ha or more
2) It must have suitable tiger habitat
3) There must be a good density of medium to large size prey
4) The area must be fenced (3.3m electrical fence)
5) The area should have low density of tigers or no tigers
6) The area should be accessible and have a network of roads
7) The area should not have any human habitation within the area

Permits: It is the buyers duty to obtain the necessary permits

Cost: There is no cost for the tigers. Buyers are responsible  for cost of transporting the tigers from Tiger Canyons to the point of destination.

Contact: jv@jvbigcats.co.za


Corbett becomes a Father 

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Tiger Corbett has fathered 3 cubs with Tigress Zaria. Some of the cubs have light coats which indicates that they are white gene carriers which probably comes from Zaria. At the moment Zaria has the cubs in a thicket in the south east of her area. 

Zaria is surviving off warthog and has reduced the population from 40 to around 12 in the 1000 hectare area. 

Zaria was from Julie's  second litter which was abandoned. I hand raised her but today she is completely wild.


In The Jaws of The Tiger: Musical 

I can finally announce that after three years in the making "In the Jaws of the Tiger- Musical" DVD has been released. Twenty two songs were recorded at Rebirth Studios in Bloemfontein. These include "Shine a Light", "Tigress Julie", "Shingalana in my Tent" and the haunting "In the Jaws of the Tiger". 

Running through the album is a plea for a lighter footprint on our planet. 

I would like to thank Bobby Johnson for producing the music and the many musicians that contributed. 

I would also like to thank Tidi Modise who edited the production. 

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV

Tread lightly on the Earth

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


Newsletters


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