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Newsletter 29
07/12/09

Lion - Tiger - Human Communication

I am searching for Julie's fifth den site and discover it in some thick reeds below a huge outcrop of rocks.
 
Julie is away hunting and 5 pairs of misty blue eyes peer out at me from the dark recess of the den. The white cub is conspicuous in the dark.

 
Several of the cub open their tiny jaws in a threat display and one spits at the camera, otherwise they remain silent. I give a soft chuffing sound which calms the cubs and after a while two fall asleep. One cubs responds to my chuff and waddles towards the camera.

 
After half an hour in the den, I leave and on the way out, I encounter Julie returning from her hunt. Julie gives me a beautiful greeting and I decide to follow her back to the den. As she arrives at the den, she gives a series of staccato chuffs to which the cubs respond immediately.

JV films in Julie's Den
All five cubs come tumbling out of the den. The cubs are making soft chuffs and chirps. They are overjoyed to see Julie. Their fear of me disappears, as several try to suckle from me.  At one point one cub gazes up into my eyes, bobbing its head as it tries to focus. I chuff the cub and it gives a perfect chuff back. I have just had my first conversation with a 3 weeks old tiger cub and it with me. It is a magical moment.

 
Julie massages every cub in turn with her rough tongue. She takes great care to lick them thoroughly. It is believed that apart from cleaning them, the massage helps their digestive system and blood circulation.

 
Julie lies down outside the den on a large flat rock. Each cub knows instinctively it is feeding time and there are only four teats amongst five of them. Competition is intense. It is now when stronger cubs will dominate the weaker cubs and runts in the litter will perish. As I watch the jostling cubs, all seem about the same size and strength. There is no obvious weak one.

Two cubs are competing for one teat and the one cub pushes the other cub away from the teat. It rolls down Julies body and the momentum takes it off the rock and it falls into the stream below. Fortunately the water is shallow but the cub immediately gives a loud distress call.

 

 
Now an incredible thing happens. Julie turns her head and gives me a series of chuffs. They are unlike the chuff she uses as a greeting. They are more requesting, even commanding. It is clear she wants me to rescue the cub from the water.
 
My policy up to now has been to observe, record on film but not to touch. However Julie's request is clear, she is unwilling to dislodge the suckling cubs, I must  "rescue the cub in distress". I move down into the stream and pick up the drenched cub and return it to Julie. She thanks me profusely with a series of chuffs. Tigress and human being are not only communicating, they are understanding each other, helping and working together. For one brief moment at Tiger Canyons, I was able to talk to a tiny cub and then on request from its mother, rescue another from the water.

 
A week after this incredible experience, another miracle unfolds before my eyes.
 
I go out early and find July half a kilometer away from her den. She is strenuously marking territory.
 
At Julie's den site, Savannah, the lioness begins a communication roar. Julie responds immediately and heads off towards the den.
 
As I am unable to go on foot with Savannah, I move down to the den in a vehicle.
 
I arrive at the den site to find Savannah and one tiger cub in a small clearing about 200m from the den.
 
It appears that Savannah has arrived at the den while Julie was away and the cub has mistaken her for Julie. It has followed Savannah hoping to suckle.
 
Realizing that the cub is now in the open and vulnerable, Savannah has communicated her concerns to Julie. Apparently Julie can understand the lion roar, for she responds immediately.

 
After a terrific greeting from Savannah, Julie picks up the wayward cub in her mouth and returns it to the den. As she moves towards the den, a second cub gives a distress call. This cub apparently also followed Savannah and is in some dense reeds 100m from the den.

Lioness carries Julie's cub in her mouth
Using a "staccato like chuff", Julie communicates to Savannah to fetch the second cub. It is the same chuff used when asking me to rescue the cub in the water.
 
Savannah apparently understands perfectly well, for she rather clumsily picks up the cub in her mouth and returns it to the den.

   

 
Lions have an auntie system when raising cubs. Often they will come into estrus together, mate and produce cubs at the same time. Now one lioness can remain with cubs while the other hunts for food.
 
Tigresses raise cubs on their own. They have no help from male or other female tigers.

 
Julie, adaptable as she is, seems quite happy to use me and Savannah to help her raise the cubs.
 
Three years ago I captured a shot on film of Tigress Julie moving Savannah in her mouth to a new den. Now, 3 years later, Savannah is repaying the compliment by carrying Julie's cub back to the den.


 

 
Two of the biggest cats in the world and a human being, caring, communicating and co-operating to raise a litter of 5 cubs!
 
 
Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV 
 

Tread lightly on the Earth

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


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Newsletter 128
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Newsletter 127
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Newsletter 126
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Newsletter 123
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Newsletter 122
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Newsletter 121
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Newsletter 119
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Newsletter 118
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Newsletter 117
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An Open Letter to the President: Operation Wild Lion

Newsletter 116
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Don't Shoot the Messenger

Newsletter 110
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The Hunters

Newsletter 109
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Gaia or God?

Newsletter 108
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The Healing Power of Cats

Newsletter 107
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Goddess Gaia

Newsletter 106
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Ambassador Cats

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Invitation
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Gaining ground for tigers

Newsletter 103
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Wilderness Man

Newsletter 101
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Newsletter 100
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Cheetah Survival

Newsletter 99
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Extract from JV's speech on Corbett's Freedom Day

Newsletter 98
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The Power of the Picture

Newsletter 97
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Tiger Corbett's Release

Newsletter 96
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Corbett's Journey

Newsletter 95
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Bush School: Where are they now?

Newsletter 94
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Open letter to Jani Allen: Oscar Pistorius

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John Varty interview with Sizie Modise

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Newsletter 84
26/11/13
A Letter to All Conservationists in SA 
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Newsletter 83
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Newsletter 82
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Profit is the Name of Your Game

Newsletter 81
30/10/13

Big Cat Cub Safari


Newsletter 80
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In the Jaws of the Tiger

Newsletter 79
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Open letter to Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 78
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Open letter to Min of Defense, South Africa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 77
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Digital Photography

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Zoochosis

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Rhino Horn Trade - Response

Newsletter 74
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Raw Power

Newsletter 73
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The Evolution of the Tracker

Newsletter 72
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An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
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Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
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Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the best eyesight of them all?

Newsletter 69
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fastest of them all?

Newsletter 68
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best fighter of them all?

Newsletters 67
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Wild Cheetah return to the Free State after 100 years

Newsletter 66
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Seeking the genes

Newsletters 65
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Corbett's Journey

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In Search of a Mate

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Rumble in the Jungle

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30/10/12
Voronin Big Cat Safari Breaks All Records

Newsletters 61
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A Journey to Nowhere

Newsletter 60
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The John Hume Approach

Newsletter 59
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Response to Rhino Horn Auction

Newsletters 58
24/09/12
A Letter to John Hume, SA biggest Rhino Breeder

Newsletters 57
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Newsletters 56
01/08/12
Indian Government -
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Newsletter 55
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Corbett's Freedom

Newsletter 53
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Lethal injection or Freedom

Newsletters 52
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The anatomy of an aggressive tiger

Newsletters 51
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Majestic, breathtaking pictures

Newsletters 50
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Tigress Calendar

Newsletters 49
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Let your pictures do the talking

Newsletters 48
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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
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Ron's Journey

Newsletter 39
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"Descreprimate"

Newsletter 38
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Beauty comes at a price

Newsletter 37
18/08/10

The Light Has Gone Out


Newsletter 36
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The Beautiful Game

Newsletter 35
05/07/10
The Ethics of
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Newsletter 34
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Tiger Hunt

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The Year of the Tiger

Newsletter 32
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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