Corbett before accident
A young male tiger Corbett, just 20 months old is hunting a herd of blesbuck at Tiger Canyons. The blesbuck have to pass through the
long grass to get to the water and the young male conceals himself
in the grass, his stripes merging perfectly with the dappled shadows
thrown by the tall elephant grass.
Corbett after encounter with blesbuck and during the operation
The young male tiger is inexperienced, he has captured springbuck,
mountain reedbuck, antbears and hares - all small and relatively
Tigers are stalker pouncers, concealing themselves in an ambush
position and then with a short rush, they catch and over-power their
Much of the hunting technique is instinctive, but the finer points
have to be learned.
Tigress Julie kills an impala ram by inserting canines through vertebrae
at back of neck
Tigress Julie kills an impala ram by the classic suffocation grip in
which the interlocking canines block off the air supply
A blesbuck weighs around 80 kilograms, the horns are 36cm long are
S-shaped and very sharp. Aggressive by nature, a blesbuck will not
hesitate to attack if captured or cornered.
The young male tiger waits in the grass. At 20 months old he has
probably seen his mother throttle large antelope, but it is doubtful
whether he has ever done it successfully himself.
A male blesbuck passes close by him on its way to the water. He lets
it pass and then charges from behind. The soft pads move him
silently at great speed across the ground, but an alarm call from
another blesbuck, warns the male blesbuck who spins to face the
The rapier like claws of the tiger seek to grip the blesbuck's neck
as he aims for the throat. The tiger turns on his back trying
to pull the blesbuck neck down, so the long canines can penetrate the
Something goes wrong and the claws don't bind to the neck of the
blesbuck. The male blesbuck stabs downwards, the horn ripping
through the tiger's nostril traveling through the bridge of the
nose. The point of the blesbuck horn cuts the lower eyelid, stopping
millimeters from the tigers right eye.
The blesbuck turns and flees, the hunt is over.
The male tiger
retires to the shade to contemplate his next move. He can't lick the
wound so he licks his paw and pulls it across the wound in an
attempt to self medicate himself. The tigers saliva has antiseptic
properties. As he pulls the paw across the wound, he folds back the
skin to reveal a 2 cm deep gaping wound and one nostril almost
detached from his face. He is endanger of losing his entire nose and
is vulnerable to infection.
I call Dr. Charlotte Moueix, a wildlife vet, who in the last months
has, at Tiger Canyons, vasectomised two male tigers, put a tigress on
birth control and immobilized and micro chipped no less the six
Zoletil and medetomidine knocks tiger down within 5 minutes
Corbett is quickly immobilized and I watch in awe as Charlotte, in a
100 minute operation, reconstructs Corbett's nose, stitching the
nostril back onto the face. Once again, the tiger is breathing
through both nostrils. It is a work of art, a brilliant veterinary
achievement, perhaps the first of its kind performed on a tiger.
After anti-doting the tiger, it rises from the operation, a thin
scar neatly stitched has replaced the gaping wound. Corbett has been
restored to a handsome male tiger.
Recent picture of Corbett
During the month that Charlotte has been doing her creative work at
Tiger Canyons, the news has been breaking around the world about a
rhino poaching syndicate that have accounted for 498 rhino killed
between 2000 and 2010 in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Implicated in the slaughter of the rhino are several South African
How is it that two people who spent many years and large amounts of
money studying to become a veterinarian could take such diverging
paths? The one putting huge amounts of time and effort into saving
animals, the other killing them for greed and profit.
I have invented a new word its called "descreprimate" which stands
for "destructive, creative primate" i.e. Homo sapiens.
Over the last twenty years the advancement of dart guns,
immobilizing drugs, capture techniques, helicopters and training
have all been hailed as giant steps forward for conservation. Yet it
is these very same tools that the poachers used as they
systematically destroyed 498 rhinos. For this operation to have been
successful, the poachers would have needed helicopter pilots,
veterinary skills and business acumen to dispose of the horn.
Even if the vets didn't actually kill the rhinos, where did the
poachers get the expensive immobilizing drugs? Only qualified vets
are allowed to handle these dangerous drugs. Therefore there must be
unscrupulous vets providing immobilizing drugs to poachers. Because
of the risk involved, the prices will be inflated, so these vets
will be making super normal profits no doubt. The questions remains,
why did some vets take the destructive road? The answer is greed and
The value of 498 rhino horns traded in South Africa is R245 million.
The value of 498 rhino horns traded in the East is just over R1
billion. The money that can be made by the unscrupulous destructive
vets is much higher than those that can be made by the conventional
creative, hardworking, wildlife vet working diligently everyday.
There is no doubt that the rhino poachers will go to unscrupulous
lawyers to try to find loopholes in the law to get them off. As I
have discovered at great personal cost, there are plenty of "descreprimates"
in the legal system as indeed there are in every system.
On the creative side, a magnificent 400 hectare area is fenced and
will shortly be electrified at Tiger Canyons. Some 3 kilometers of
the canyon winds through the area. It is one of the most beautiful
and rugged places on earth.
I must warn all photographers, new challenges will await you at
Tiger Canyons. You will need all your long lenses to achieve some
magnificent pictures against spectacular backdrops. Several hides
have been constructed strategically over tiger swimming areas.
Two more Sponsors Editions of Nine Lives have been given to Sunette
Fourie, Dr Charlotte Moueix and Dr Willie Marx for their fantastic contributions to
Tiger Conservation. My sincere thanks to them for outstanding
commitment and dedication.
Tread Lightly on the Earth