On the 22 of April 2009 I noticed Tigress Shadow lying
on a bank in a thicket. She gave a distress call and was
clearly agitated. Later she circled my jeep still giving
the distress call.
I was mystified as to the problem, as she had recently
made a kill and was clearly not hungry. Could it be her
cubs I wondered?
The following day while doing a game drive, I came on
Shadow in the same place. Again she appeared agitated
and this time two small cubs came with her towards my
jeep. The third cub was at the entrance to an ant bear
hole and appeared to be entangled in something and was
unable to move.
The thought crossed my mind that it could be a wire
snare and then I dismissed this idea. It was absolutely
not possible that poachers could be operating inside
Tiger Canyon Sanctuary.
To investigate the cub in safety, I first had to remove
Ron and Shadow to a holding boma.
Having achieved this I quickly made my way to the ant
bear hole. My worst fears were confirmed when I
discovered a male tiger cub, caught in a strong wire
cable. The cable was tight around his waist and I could
see where he had frantically ripped up the soil in an
attempt to escape.
I estimated that he had been in the snare for at least
48 hours and probably longer.
The cub, just 16 weeks old, was angry and vicious to
say the least and as he snarled, his bloody mouth made a
At 16 weeks old a tiger cub has teeth and claws which
can do serious damage and he was still remarkably
strong, despite his ordeal. It was going to be no easy
task to release him.
The first thing I decided to do was to take his teeth
and claws out of play.
By offering him a stick which he attacked savagely, I
was able to get to his tail. Now I could turn him and
get his claws facing away from me. Once this was
accomplished, I managed to pin his head down on the
Now Andries, my tracker, was able to remove the tight
cable from around his waist.
Once free he shot down the ant bear hole. In total the
whole operation had taken 20 minutes.
When I began the tiger project at Tiger Canyons in the
year 2000, conservationists estimate that there were
5000 tigers still in the wild. At most that figure is
Some 3,500 tigers have been lost in the wilds in 8
years. Many have fallen to poachers.
The poachers at Tiger Canyons were not trying to kill
tigers, they had set the snare outside the burrow, to
catch the large nocturnal pig like animal, called the
The meat from an ant bear could feed a family for
several weeks or be sold on the market for R300.
Unfortunately, the inquisitive young tiger cub,
probably scenting the ant bear down the burrow, had gone
in to investigate. As he moved down into the burrow, the
cable tightened around his waist trapping him.
Trapped in the wire snare, his mother Shadow could do nothing
except give a distress call.
If I could have understood Tiger language better, I
could have responded quicker, saving the cub at least 24
hours of excruciating pain.
However, I consider myself lucky to have found the cub
at all and the cub is one of the very few tigers in the
world to have survived a poachers snare.