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Instinct versus Learnt
I have wondered for many years what is
instinct and what is learnt in the Tiger world.
In August 2015, the male Tiger, Mahindra
left his territory and found the male tiger Sariska
sleeping. He killed him on the ground with a bite behind the
At the same time Sariska was the father of a
litter of cubs which included the male cub Bird. (Bird is
named because of a pattern of a flying eagle on his
Bird’s mother, Tibo, was now left with no
protection for her cubs (The litter was Bird, Shamilee and
I fully expected Mahindra to kill Tibo’s
cubs which is the norm for male tigers who are not the
father. However, Mahindra took over the father role of Tibo’s cubs and protected them. (The reason is that Mahindra
is Tibo’s brother and therefore he is genetically invested
in her cubs).
In short Mahindra spared Bird's life when
he took over the father role. Therefore, it is difficult to
understand why Bird four years later would turn on Mahindra,
his foster father and assist Sunderban, the territorial male,
to kill Mahindra.
In the dark the two male tigers, Mahindra
and Sunderban, engaged in a brutal fight. It appeared to me
that the two male tigers were evenly matched. The balance of
power shifted when Bird entered the fight. (Bird is 225
kilograms in weight and bigger than both Sunderban and
Mahindra. However, Bird is only 4 years old and not as
experienced at fighting). I would have thought Bird would
have sided with Mahindra, but he supports Sunderban
As Sunderban attacks from the front, Bird
goes to the rear and bites Mahindra through the spine,
effectively crippling him. Now Sunderban is able to
overpower Mahindra and throttle him to death.
The questions I ask are, how at the age
of 4 years old, does Bird know that a spinal bite will
render Mahindra helpless? Does Bird instinctively know that
Mahindra killed his father Sariska and he is taking revenge?
Why does Bird not side with the male tiger that effectively
saved his life when Bird was a cub?
The answer I believe lies in none of the
above. Bird has formed a coalition with Sunderban. (Bird
became bigger than Sunderban before he dispersed and
Sunderban was unable to expel him from the territory.)
When Sunderban could not expel Bird from
the territory, he did the expedient thing, he formed a
coalition with him. Sunderban suffers from cryptorchidism
(This is a condition where the testicles sit inside and not
outside the male’s body).
Sunderban mates with females, but his
stamina is not at the level of other Male Tigers (The
cryptorchidism has left Sunderban with low levels of
In recent matings, as Sunderban tires,
Bird has been able to take over the mating and inject his
genes into the system.
If Mahindra had won the fight, Mahindra
would have monopolized the mating and there would be no
opportunity for Bird to mate. Therefore, it is in Bird’s
interest to kill Mahindra, not Sunderban.
I would like to thank all of you who
stayed in the Tigress Julie Lodge in 2017 and invite
everyone to visit us in 2018.
2018 Promises to be a bumper year photographically.
I urge you all in 2018 to try to cut down
on your use of plastic and also explore ways of moving our
motor cars away from fossil fuels.
Wishing you a Healthy New Year.
Tread Lightly on the Earth
Tibo produces white cubs
Dispersal is always the most dangerous
time for tiger’s cubs. (Tiger cubs disperse between 20 & 30
months) In the case of Bird, his considerable
size meant he was larger than the dominant male Sunderban.
(Bird weighed 225 kilograms at age 30 months)
After all three of her cubs had
dispersed, Tibo (the white tigress) came into estrus and
began mating with Sunderban.
After the first day of mating, Bird joined
his mother Tibo and Sunderban and watched the mating from a
distance. On the third day it became obvious that Sunderban
was tiring. Bird now joined the mating and on one occasion I
filmed Bird and Sunderban biting Tibo’s neck
I was not that concerned, because Tibo was
extremely aggressive towards Bird, frequently attacking him
Towards the end of the third day, Sunderban was exhausted. (Sunderban suffers from
cryptorchidism and has low levels of testosterone and his
stamina is low.)
As Sunderban faded, Bird become more and
more aggressive towards Tibo, eventually overpowering her and
mating with her. Although Bird only mated with Tibo a few
times, Tibo was already ovulating from the multi copulation
When a white tiger (a white tiger has 2
white genes) and a carrier mate (a carrier has 1 white and I
normal gene) then 50% of the cubs will be white.
On the 12th of December 2017, Tibo gave
birth to 2 white cubs and one normal coloured cub.
The cubs are presently in a beautiful den
site in close proximity to Seatao’s dam.
The photographic opportunities are
outstanding as all three cubs are confident and becoming
None of these cubs will be allowed to
breed. The two males will be vasectomised, and the female
will be sterilized.
Tread Lightly on the Earth
Rodney Drew is a 57 year old graduate
professional engineer and project manager with an MBL
from Unisa who spent 30 years at a private Johannesburg
mine design and engineering company, culminating as an
executive director on the main board of the company
which had by then globalised by acquiring a number of
other international engineering companies.
Rodney and his wife Lorna have 3
daughters and have always spent holidays traveling
extensively off the beaten track through Southern
Africa. He has traveled to India many times on business,
always keeping up to date on the plight of the wild
tiger while there.
Rodney and JV met at Tiger Canyon in
2009 when Shine, Sunderban and Zaria were being hand
raised. He and his family returned to TC 10 more times
over the following year to experience the thrill of the
tigers. In 2013 Rodney bought the farm next door to JV
to expand the land size and gain access to the Van der
Kloof Dam. In 2014 the Drew’s enabled the introduction
of cheetah to TC. Then in 2016 Rodney packed up his
corporate job and moved to the Free State with his eye
on becoming a partner in the TC vision, financing and
project managing the completion of the lodge on the
Over the last year Rodney and JV
concluded discussions to join forces to professionalise
and expand TC; Rodney finally getting closer to his
dream of owning and running a wild life game farm. On 13
Dec 2017 the two men signed a partnering agreement which
brought together their land, their respective expertise,
the tigers, their love of the big cats and their vision
to create a respected private tiger reserve in Africa on
previously unproductive farming land.
Thus a new era for TC begins with JV
handing over the management reigns to Rodney. In the
near future Rodney hopes to fence off new tiger areas,
market TC extensively to improve occupancy levels,
upskill the present staff, bring in other partners to
increase the TC footprint and build more bedrooms so
that the viability and credibility of the project is
I have great pleasure in announcing
that the book "Celebrating Tigers" is out.
Alex Kirichko is the photographer for
all world class pictures.
This is a book that every
photographer, conservationist and wildlife enthusiast
should have in their collection.
Tread lightly on the earth
For anyone interested in the future
of planet earth and the human species, Sapiens by Yuval
Noah Harari is a must read.
Tread lightly on the earth
Tread lightly on the
Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats All rights reserved
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