So much from you
Courage, loyalty and truth.
The clever way
You catch your prey.
Where you hide
Your cubs away.
And I always think of you
I always think of you”
“From the song Respect written for the
I remember like it was yesterday. I
had rigged surveillance cameras in Shadow’s den and
together with my two boys Sean and Tao we waited for
Shadow to give birth.
Through the den, I had made some
strategic holes so I could stay outside the den, but
filmed the action on the inside.
The first birth I missed, because
Shadow was lying facing away from me. The second cub was
Corbett who immediately waddled out of the den.
The third cub born was Panna and
Shadow gave birth standing up. Immediately after Panna
was born, Shadow sat down on top of the cub. As I am
filming I shout into the camera “you are crushing the
cub, you are crushing the cub!” That tiny cub was
At the time, I thought of moving
forwards and taking the cub out from underneath Shadow’s
body. Then I had second thoughts as Shadow may think I
was stealing her cub and attack me (Shadow is an
extremely unpredictable Tigress.)
Fortunately, the embryonic sack was
extremely slippery and Panna shot out from under Shadow
like a piece of soap.
Later when looking at the footage, I
noticed that Panna’s tiny claws were extended and it
these claws that cut the embryonic sack wide open. In
short, Nature had taken care of everything.
Later Sunette Fourie put the birth on
YouTube and today over 8 million people have seen
For several months, I couldn’t find
Shadow and the three cubs (One cub died after Shadow sat
on it). Only after six months did we start to see and
photograph the three cubs.
It became apparent that the two cubs,
Panna and Sariska were exceedingly shy and one cub
Corbett was bold and aggressive.
Between 20 and 30 months, all three
cubs dispersed from Shadow. Corbett and Sariska both
captured territories, but Panna was unable to do so.
Firstly, Panna was a small tigress,
but she also lacked the aggression needed to fight for a
territory. Shadow, Panna’s mother attacked her, as did a
female called Indira who was bigger and stronger than
The ragged ears that Panna has today,
came from those fights. (As a cub, Panna’s ears were
floppy, they took about 12 months to stiffen. Her
original name was “floppy ears”)
Several times I called a Vet to
stitch Panna up after she had come off second best in a
In the floods of 2011, four hundred
meters of the fence was destroyed. Corbett immediately
swam out of the park into the neighbouring farm land.
Panna remained inside Tiger Canyons even though the
fence was gone.
Normally Panna would run away when a
vehicle approached, but on this occasion, Panna came
towards us and allowed herself to be darted (Twelve
tigers and a lion were darted and put in Bomas the day
of the floods.)
When we extended the tiger home range
at Tiger Canyons, I immediately darted Panna and moved
her into the new area. Panna moved into the north-west
corner of Tiger Canyons and set up her own territory.
She was the first Tiger to reach
self-sustainability (I have recorded over 12 red
Hartebeest kills, 4 waterbucks, one blue wildebeest,
several impala and many warthog kills.)
Previously when under pressure, Panna
had not come into estrus regularly. Now with her own
territory she was cycling regularly.
After mating with Khumba at the age
of eight, Panna has produced 3 cubs. One of the cubs is
a crossover gene, giving it a multi coloured effect (See
Previously Panna was not regarded as
an ambassador tigress. (An ambassador tiger is one that
is wild but fully habituated and allows itself to be
viewed and photographed.)
With the advent of the cubs, Panna
has become the main attraction at Tiger Canyons and she
has responded magnificently.
Over the last 3 months I have
developed a communication system with Panna which is
Shadow’s favourite den site is a
rocky outcrop on top of a hill. This den site is totally
out of sight of cameras and lenses.
I stand at the bottom of the hill and
I give two different calls. The first call is a roar and
this means that I want to help Panna with a dead
warthog. The dead warthog is placed in a warthog burrow
and Panna comes to the burrow and removes the warthog
and takes it back to the cubs who are waiting in the den
and out of sight on top of the hill.
The second call I give is “Staccato
Chuffing.” This call is requesting her to bring the cubs
so we can view and photograph them. For doing this,
there is no reward of food.
Eight times I have requested this
favour from Panna and five times she has brought the
cubs for viewing. The viewing time is normally short, 10
to 15 minutes and then she returns to the den and out of
This is not the first time I have
established this mutually rewarding relationship. The
original mother leopard at Londolozi did it often,
Manana did it once or twice, Tigress Julie did it
People have asked me to interpret the
symbolic behaviour and I believe that Tigress Panna has
an instinctive idea that her safety and wellbeing and
those of her cubs are tied to human beings. Tigress
Panna has made a conscious or unconscious decision to
share her cubs with us.
In a very simple form, “you give me
food, I give you photographs".
For me the Tigress Panna relationship
is especially rewarding. Panna is not a Tigress I know
well. I have perhaps spent less time with her than any
other Tigress. I have been inspired by the Mother
Leopard, Shingalana, Manana, Tigress Julie, Tigress Tibo
However, the relationship with Panna
is extremely special. The arrival of her cubs has
changed everything. A symbiotic relationship has
The shy Tigress is gone and in her
place a confident caring sharing mother, totally relaxed
in our company has emerged. Panna nearly perished at
birth. She was brutally attacked by Indira and Shadow.
She remained without cubs for eight long years.
Tigress Panna has outlived her two
brothers, Sariska and Corbett. She has turned her life
around and what a pleasure and privilege it has been to
be part of the journey.
Tread lightly on the Earth
Tigress Panna’s cubs:
Panna’s litter of cubs have revealed
that in fact Tiger Canyons now has 4 different types of
Tigers. The first type is a normal tiger which possesses
two normal genes.
The second Tiger is a White Tiger
which possesses the gene SLc45a2.This gene is valuable
and has been around in the wild since the 13th century.
This gene should be conserved at all costs. Tigress Tibo
possesses 2 white gene or 2 by SLc45a2 genes.
The third type of tiger is a carrier
tiger which possess one white gene and one normal gene (Tibo’s
parents Julie and Seatao were both white gene carriers)
With the arrival of Panna’s cubs, a
third type of tiger has arrived at Tiger Canyons. It is
called a crossover tiger. This too is a natural
phenomenon and should be conserved at all costs.
A crossover tiger emerges when the
white gene and the normal gene have fused together i.e.
30% of the white gene merges with 70% of the of the
normal gene or vice versa.
Therefore, one of Panna’s cubs has
white hindquarter and a normal body. Perhaps 40% of the
body is white and 60% is normal.
Evolution works in strange ways.
Sometimes it takes millions of years to evolve and
sometimes in leaps and bounds.
Could it be that we are witnessing
evolution at work at Tiger Canyons right now?
The habitat at Tiger Canyons for most
of the year is brown, grey and yellow. The crossover cub
blends into its surroundings better than the dark cubs
who are more successful in a green forest of dappled
The lion that blends so perfectly
with the brown grass of the Savannahs was once a spotted
cat. Could it be that a series of crossover genes
changed it into a tawny cat to suit its background?
I think the answer is yes!
Once again, the shy retiring
forgotten Tigress Panna, has brought to the fore some
crucial knowledge in the understanding of the evolution
of the Tiger.
I would like to thank Doug Fitzgerald
for his in depth research and enlightening me on the
genetic evolution of the Tiger. Doug’s research will
prove valuable in managing the tiger going forward.
The golden tabby and the black tiger
possess flatfan genes. These are induced mutation genes
which have come about as a result of inbreeding. These
have no conservation value and should be avoided.
Therefore, Tiger Canyons policy will
be to protect and conserve the normal gene tiger, the
white gene tiger and the crossover tigers.
Many people have asked me why I don’t
afford Tibo special protection. They point out that Tibo
could be killed in a fight tomorrow. This is true,
however at Tiger Canyons we are striving for a wild
self-sustaining population of tigers. Therefore, if you
are white, normal or crossover you will be afforded no
special privileges. Each tiger must survive in the harsh
world of tiger existence. Darwin’s law of natural
selection and the strongest will survive, is very much
applicable to the Tiger Canyon's Experiment.
Tread lightly on the Earth
Response to "In Pursuit of Alan Root:
Hello to everyone at Tiger
Canyons, I want to take this opportunity to say that
I was very sad to hear that Joan Root was I believe
murdered at her Kenyan home and that Alan Root died
However it makes me feel very
angry to know that well meaning people who did so
much to research conserve protect and film and bring
their film work into our living room through the
spectacular wildlife documentaries, have been
murdered at their homes.
I refer to people like George,
Joy and Terry Adamson, Diane Fossey, and now
the late Joan Root. I had and still have the
greatest respect to those people, they didn't
deserve to die at the hands of poachers or staff
Please please if it is at all
possible, can you convey my deepest sympathy to the
family of Joan and Alan Root and also the field
management team who have carried on with the
research and protection of the gorillas from Diane
Thank you so much it will mean a
lot to me if you can.
May God Bless and Protect all who
strive to save the worlds wildlife.
Good luck to everyone at Tiger
Canyons. Please convey my very best wishes to JV and
two families both human and the big cats.