This Newsletter is addressed to the hundreds of Indian
conservationists who have corresponded with me this last year.
My apologies that I cannot answer each and every
e-mail, but there are some common threads running through all your
Firstly, as many of you point out, 22% of Indian people
live below the poverty line. These rural people need the forests for
their survival, so does the tiger. What is bad, is if the forests are
converted to agriculture, then the tiger will lose and ultimately so
will the people.
The key is to conserve the forests for the benefit of
the people and the tiger in a symbiotic relationship.
In other words, make the tiger benefit the rural
At the moment, the tiger doesn't benefit the
communities. It kills the people's stock and even sometimes kills the
people. In turn the people take its prey and their domestic stock take
the grass that is needed for the tigers prey.
Poaching of tigers is rife.
How do you turn this situation around in a country
with 1,13 billion people and a growth rate of 1.38%? Not easily, I assure you.
The first point to realize is that the people in
charge of your tigers are failing in their attempt to save it.
Many of you have told me that the system is so
entrenched, that it is impossible to change. If this is so, then you must
accept that tourists that visit India in the future, will come to India
to view the culture and the temples.
Parks like Kanha, Ranthambore, James Corbett and Panna
will follow the way of Sariska.
Once the magnetic animal, the tiger, is lost to the
park, so is the tourist potential and so too is the vital income needed
to save the tiger, conserve its prey and protect its habitat.
Indian businessmen are some of the finest
entrepreneurs in the world. Indeed, the 4th, 5th and 6th richest men in
the world, are all Indian. The steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and the
Ambani brothers, have a combined wealth of 130 billion dollars.
It is here that the best chance of saving the tiger
lies, not in poorly paid bureaucratic forestry officials.
It will take money and entrepreneurial skills to save
the tiger in its present state, India has both. Whether it has the
vision, is another question.
Many of you have cited the Cons Corp investment in
Indian parks as an example. My brother was a founder member of Cons
Corp, so I know something about it.
If Cons Corp are shut out from large parts of the
parks because there is illegal poaching in these areas, if they are
prevented from going off road or driving at night, if in short they are
unable to show their guests the tiger, their investment will fail,
simple as that.
The investment I have in mind is different from this. Try to get a long term lease of the park which includes:
The exclusive tourists rights to the entire park.
The right to put lodges on the periphery, not in the
core of the park.
The right to put in ecologically sound roads.
The right to fence the park (maybe Lakshmi
Mittal will help you)
The right to manage the tiger (It is your
responsibility, not the government's to conserve the tiger. This means
that you can habituate, film, photograph, catch and relocate the
tiger as per your management plan).
The right to manage the prey and the habitat of the
tiger in the park, i.e. open or shut water points, clear bush, restore
indigenous forest, combat erosion, re-route bad roads.
The right to enter into partnership with surrounding
communities, so they become partners in the investment. This is
The anti poaching must be your responsibility.
I can hear many of you screaming from the rooftops,
not possible! not possible! Varty is mad!
Under the apartheid government, the Kruger National
Park was run by bureaucrats whose minds were closed to any form of
When the ANC took power, the late Enos Mabuza introduced my brother and I to Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Sitting
in my house at Londolozi, my brother and I suggested to them to
privatize the Kruger National Park.
The idea was accepted and today several powerful
private individuals have large exclusive private concessions in the
Kruger National Park. For these they have paid millions and millions of
Here people from all over the world can come and
admire the wild life that was previously not available to them. In turn the National Parks have substantial amounts of
money to conserve the thousands of animals that make up this paradise.
I am not a businessman. Where my skills are, is in
setting up the management of the park, the tiger and the habitat. You
must first gain control of the park and then we can move to the second
Do I believe you can achieve this. The answer is no unless you can do the following:
Attract big money to the cause.
Produce a business plan which is profitable. (Don't
make the mistake of thinking that individuals, corporations or hotel
groups will invest, because they want to save the tiger. They will
invest because its profitable.)
Gain control of parks for an extended period of
(In other words, don't expect the government to have
vision. Only money will change the system.)
I would not invest a single cent on a lodge near a
park where the main attraction, the tiger, is on the decline. This would
be like investing in a gold mine where the gold is nearly
Finally, "People have brought the tiger to the brink of extinction, only people
can bring it back".