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Newsletter 40
18/11/10

Ron's Journey

The male and founding tiger of Tiger Canyons, Ron, has died at Tiger Canyons aged 11 1/2 years old.  

  

As Ron sought to extend his territory, he became involved in a fight with his son, Tiger Boy, who is 4 years old and in his prime. During the fight, Ron was bitten on his left foreleg, right shoulder and high on the spine. 


Ron, Julie & JV

I was most concerned that the spine bite might have immobilised him, but after taking six litres of water from me and after treating his wounds, he stood up and moved himself into the shade. After spending 4 hours with him, I was confident that he would survive, so it was a huge shock on my return to find him dead. 

A closer examination of the body, revealed a bite into the stomach, which would have penetrated a vital organ. Unfortunately, because of position he was lying in when I treated his wounds, I failed to see the bite.

A 4 years old male tiger with a canine length of 5 inches, with over 1000 lbs/sq inch pressure, could easily reach a kidney, liver or spleen, setting up the potential for infection.

On discovering the dead tiger, the rival male tiger Seatao, immediately attacked the body, going for the suffocating throat grip. For a full 20 minutes, Seatao aggressively continued the attack on throat, hamstring and forelegs. The raw attack, is certainly one of the most ferocious scenes I have ever filmed and  gave me a rare glimpse into the intensity of the territorial behavior of the tiger. 

On reflection, I make the following points. If I had not met Ron in January 2000, he would have spent his life in a cage in zoo in North America. 

As it turned out, Ron became a super hunter and I personally did over 300 hunts with him, many successful.  

On a famous hunt, Ron swam across the Gariep River (300 metre wide) and killed a cow on the other side. The story of this hunt is in my book "Nine Lives" and in the film "Living with Tigers" 

On another hunt, I was running with Ron after Blesbuck when I fell on the loose stones. After catching the Blesbuck, Ron immediately came across to see if I was okay. 

During another hunt, I was sitting high on a cliff filming Julie swimming below, when Ron came up behind me and greeted me with a powerful head rub. The force of his greeting dislodged the stone on which I was sitting and I fell 50 feet into the river below with the Arriflex camera still in my hand. Ron, showing great concern, immediately raced down the cliff and dived into the water, swam to me and began licking my face. 


Ron an JV

On another occasion, Ron was sleeping on top of my vehicle while I wrote a film script. It was a hot day and I too fell asleep. When I awoke, I completely forgot that Ron was on the roof, so I drove out of the hunting area into a herd of 200 sheep. Ron woke up and reminded me that he was on the roof. I accelerated through the herd of sheep to prevent him from jumping off the speeding jeep and got back into the hunting area. Ron just strolled off the top of the jeep, chuffed me and walked into the  shade and went back to sleep as if to say, no need to worry, I wouldn't have attacked the sheep anyway. 

  
Ron on JV's car

Ron was  a good communicator and always greeted me with the distinctive chuffing sound that tigers make. 

On one hunt, Ron continued chuffing for such a long time that I had to stop the hunt, otherwise the game would hear us coming. Ron was simply expressing his joy at doing something male tigers do best, stalking, ambushing and hunting prey. 

Ron was the first to alert me to the fact that "chuffing" is not just a greeting, but a conversation as well. On one occasion, he gave Julie a series of commands. Julie acted on each command and included me in the conversation, which lasted a good 6 to 8 minutes. 

I never felt fear in the company of Ron, but on one occasion, Julie was in estrus, so I had separated Ron and Julie into different bomas to prevent them from mating. Ron was not amused and he strutted up and down the fence, his neck swollen, the hair standing upright. 

Against my better judgment, a film crew arrived and persuaded me to take Ron out to hunt. Literally a few minutes into the hunt, Ron charged towards me, leaping  off the bank of the dry river bed and smashing me and the camera down onto the rocks. As I looked up at the male tiger standing over me, he was a fearsome sight. His pupils were wide, his nostril flared his body coiled like a spring. Ron could have killed me easily. From my position under him, I chuffed Ron continually, dropping the tone of my voice "Good boy! Good boy!" Gradually he relaxed and then he stepped over me and walked back into his boma. The message was clear, there would be no hunting today. 

The great hunter naturalist James Corbett, described a male tiger as a whole hearted gentleman. If this is so, then Ron was the ultimate gentleman. Gentle, kind, fierce, aggressive, all the qualities which make male tigers the magnificent creatures they are. 

  

One of my fondest memories of Ron was on a misty morning at Tiger Canyons when Ron met his cubs for the first time. He greeted the cubs and then circled the den, marking strenuously and roaring into the mist, telling all that cubs had arrived. 

Tiger Canyons and the world is poorer for Ron's passing. He gave us love, affection and much knowledge. Films, songs, poems and thousands of pictures have been taken of this incredible tiger. 

I was with Ron for 11 years and his passing is deeply felt. I take solace in the fact that he lived, in human terms, close to 80 years. He mated, hunted, fought for territory and fathered cubs and lived the life of a wild tiger. It is a fact that Tigers live violently and die violently and so it was with Ron. 

The year 2010 has been tough for Tiger Canyons. We lost Runti the cub, Shine to poachers and Ron in a fight. 

On the positive side, we bred new generations and we captured, fenced and stocked more land for wild tigers. 

The boycotting of the upcoming Tiger Summit in St Petersburg by many of the leading tiger conservationists, tells me that if they are in disarray, what chance does the wild tiger have. 

Until someone can show me a better method, I will continue to create wild populations of tigers in South Africa. 

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV


Tributes to Ron

Dearest John,
I feel so sad for you at this time knowing you have lost a friend, a brother, a son, a companion and a spiritual healer in Ron. I saw and filmed hours of you guys together in Ron's first few years. And saw how your bond grew as a culmination of all your work with Mother leopard, Shingi, Little Boy and Little Girl, the cheetahs. I saw how your love for Ron and Julie created your mission to make their home range bigger and more natural and save their whole tiger species. And with all the tough times you have faced on this admirable mission, how Ron and Julie have kept you going. What a sore heart you must have at this time.
I feel sadness for all of us who knew and loved Ron. He was one of those beings you just never forget. 
Being with Ron taught me so much, especially about trust. Being on a hunt with him filming with an old Arri where I would have to crouch over low down and press my one eye to the eyepiece and close the other, while a full grown tiger was in full of hunting adrenalin a few metres away.  Blind and in the silence of a hunt when all my senses would be on high alert and not sure if my camera was facing in the right direction or where Ron or Julie were. Two grown tigers hunting and I couldn't see them, I should just stay crouched down so as not to mess up their hunt. There was no way I could let fear enter me as I knew this would be a magnet for any predator. I remember the few times Ron did jump on me. Ooi, pretty gentlemanly for a tiger, but mmm impressive. Thank you John for giving me and so many humans access to Ron's life.
To you Ron, You are a great Mahatma. Thanks for blessing this planet with your presence. Thanks for all the lessons you taught us humans. For me personally, thank you for teaching me about trust. For literally showing me that I have to close both eyes, be fearless, allow myself to be vulnerable and, for godsake, don't run away. Thanks for not eating me when you could of on many an occasion. And thanks for not eating John. We need him.
Rest in peace and help us humans from the other side now.
With love
Kari

Hi John

I am so sad to read about Ron, I feel his passing too and wanted to extend my heartfelt sympathy to you. I believe in what you are doing.

Yvette


Please accept my heart-felt condolences.  Ron’s passing leaves the world a poorer place.  And yet, the world was a richer place for those 11 years when he lived, learned and thrived.  And you should take enormous pride in that.  I can’t imagine Ron living his entire life behind bars in some North American zoo.  You gave him love.  You gave him freedom.  And you gave him respect.  (And self-respect!)  Perhaps the three most important things for any creature. 
Ron was the first tiger I ever met.  My favorite picture of myself is of me and Ron, taken my first day in Africa, my first morning at Tigermoon.  It hangs over my desk to this day.  And is my picture on facebook.  
We can be sad and mourn his death.   
But more importantly, we should celebrate his life. 
He was a helluva cat . . .  
All my best,
Ed Fields

Dear John and team...

Such a big loss, we could not possible image how it must feel to lose such a "key member" of your time. Even tough nature can be cruel, we know it should take its course, but it saddens us to know he is gone. We can only say thanks to a higher power for enriching your lives with Ron!!! May you cherish every memory of your time together... Thinking of you.

Nico and Chrisone Smit (got engaged at the ranch in July 2OO9)

Dear John, We who were privledged to meet Ron share your sadness & offer the following words by Irving Townsend from "The Once Again Prince":
     We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.....
Our sincere condolences, Dr Jack & Tobe' Wilson 

Hi JV, 
Just to jog your memory as to who I am, I am a friend of Kate and Mo's and Lulani and was out in Phili for a second time this past summer with my friend Francine for the world cup.  We took one of your Tiger tours and very much enjoyed it. 
Since then, in your updates I learned of first Shine's passing and now Ron's.  Tragic but, at least for Ron, a natural occurence for a wild tiger and a life cycle that would not have proceeded so naturally had he not left the Bowmanville Zoo (not far from my home in Toronto).  The first time I was in South Africa back in 2006 was when I met Ron and Julie and I think Shine was there as a cub too - in fact I remember playing with Shine (or it might have been Shadow and Seatao). 
Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for sending along these stories - you are a captivating writer. 
Take care and keep doing what your doing!   
I would love to come visit again and will let you know when I am next in Phili (probably not for a year or two). 
Emma Wilkins
Toronto, Canada

JV
 
So incredibly sad, but as you said, he had a hell of a life. Saw him last year during our visit there, also have wonderful pictures, but most of all, memories of him in our hearts.
 
Many thanks for your inspirational input in these impressive animals.
 
My daughter still can not forget what she experienced there and wants to come and volunteer for you at some stage, if you would!
 
Keep doing what you are doing....
 
The Grundlings
 

Hi JV 
Well done for the amazing work you are doing. 
It is always sad to hear news like this and thank you for sharing this story of Ron.  
I always read your insights with much interest, please keep them coming.
I am sure that as with me they bring people closer to your endeavours and expand the much needed consciousness. 
Warm regards 
Roger Titley

 Thanks so much for this - Ron's story touched my heart - may his soul be resting peacefully.

Liz Cardinelli

Howzit John

You’ve been having a tough year with these losses. I feel for you and the Tigers.

I still have photos of Ron and of the cubs from when we came to Philipollis. I really enjoyed it.

This loss must be particularly tough, with Ron being the start of it all.

You’ve gone a long, long way. Keep walking, as they say.

Rgds

Greg


Hi Jon and Dave, 

It’s been ages since we last chatted. I wanted to drop you an email just to say that I have heard that Ron has died. I felt very sad and can only imagine how you must feel.  

Warm regards,

Kevin. 


 Hi JV and Sunette
I wanted to order a few copies of your book, how can I go about this?
I hope all is well. I've tried calling but I cant get through. All the best to both of you. 
Thanks,
James

Hi JV
 
We are so sorry for your loss... It must have been a sad moment and we feel for you.  It seems like you and Ron had an amazing time together and we congratulate you on the amazing work you have done with him and all your other projects. Thanks for sharing the great memories of his life with us.
 
Hope to see you soon again...
 
Love from the whole Eksteen family
 
Walter Eksteen

Oh wow, JV – thanks for letting us know. Must be so hard for you.

Remember how Ron “recognised” me when I came to his boma with you for the first time? Knowing I’d never seen an adult tiger in the flesh in my life, I told him he must be mistaken. Only to have him remind me of us playing when he was a cub at Ron and Julie Whitfield’s place in California where we used to go tot lure train out cheetahs…

Beautiful soul he is, and always will be.

RIP 

Love
ab


Hi JV 
Deeply sad to hear about Ron.  My family and I met him in April of this year, one of the great highlights of an otherwise awful year.  We hope to get to see you and your tigers again in 2011. 
Keep up the great work
Kind regards and best wishes
Jane, Seffi, Daniel, and Kelly Margalit

 Mooi storie – van Ron – nogal sad –
Groetnis –
Ax

JV, 
You're doing what other people would like to do but don't because of losing face. So stuff the people. YOU are the people. On the other hand and as gross as it sounds why don't you harvest the Tigers that die and sell them. The money would be useful. I have thought about this for ages and to curb poaching I would do anything. Think of the Tiger as being an organ donor in order to save many other lives. 
Take care
Teresa

JV and Sunette
So very sad hear of Ron's death. He was a magnificent wild tiger. 
We are in Jaipor India. Local news: 5 tigers recently relocated to Sariska; one already poisoned already dead; another gone missing. Keep strong your work!  
Bob & Mary Beth Wheeler

Dear JV and all,
 
I am sitting here after reading about Ron with tears streaming down my face.   I have showed the movie 'Living with Tigers' to my incarcerated students so many times I cannot count them.  Everytime I show it, the kids LOVE it and are so interested in tigers.  Even though they are locked up, they feel for these magnificent cats.  Ron and Julie were true pioneers in your effort to keep wild tigers on this planet.   My heart breaks as yours does only I'm sure it is a fraction of your pain.
 
Thank you for all that you are doing and someday, I hope to visit Tiger Canyons.
 
Sincerely,
Janie Acord
Colorado

For Ron

Just look through the screen of my computer gave me shivers of pleasure, evrei want to see you in person to admire your rare beauty pioneer for your race you have lighted a hope for a species that deserves to live more 'in many people this fucking-fantastic world.
You were special from the start because Ron 'Dave and John great, great experts in their field, have chosen you and Julie to give you the freedom' in exchange for a big responsibility 'and you have never disappointed.
 
Big and 'the gift that you gave us, you could live free from predators and to love more' so many people giving inspiration and joy.
To be honest I would have liked to have been there with Jon and Dave during your first catch. . . . . 
God what a thrill it was, (confirm John?)
I always had a deep love for cats in particular for the tiger, and Ron and Julie have made him even more 'big.

so thank Ron for all that you gave us and to have existed
 
In February I will go 'to the temple of the tigers in Thailand, I want to stay inside a week to play with puppies and wanted to see you and Julie in Africa, and I do not' even happened to be in contact with an adult male, but I think Ron was unique for me.

Thanks john for what you are creating and all the passion you have, I would soon come to know you and thank you in person if possible
                                                                                                 
ALEX from ROMA 18/11/2010
P.S. 
sorry for English not very fair

Dear JV
So very sad – our thoughts are with you over this time.  He was truly magnificent  and we can’t believe he is no longer alive.  We fondly remember Ron and Julie arriving at Phinda – and so have always had a special interest in them.
Lots of love
Stoff and Debs x

Hi John / Team
 Very sad to hear about Rons passing,though as you have said he had a great life,so much better than any concrete jungle,that could have been his life in a zoo.
The summit in St Peters burg,lets hope they hope they come up with something that will help at ground level,not just more hot air.
We have lost two Tigers in India in the last week to poisoning,though the authorities cover this up as in fighting between males,though no marks on the bodies.
Keep up the great work.
Best Regards
Phil Davis
Please raise awareness and Save the Tigers by visiting:
www.tigerawareness.co.uk
 

Dear JV,
We are so sorry to hear of another loss at Tiger Canyons! Ron surely was beautiful!  Thanks for the work you do!  Hope to see you in Grahamstown again
soon.
Love
The Eksteens

Dear John
Thank you for the most incredible insight into your life with your tiger 'family'.
It's so brilliant and illuminating for a city slicker like me with a passion for conservation.
Best wishes

Tony Balshaw | Managing Partner

JV, I am heartbroken for you.
Much love
Lesley

Dear Tiger Canyons and John:
You have my support and I have a tear in the eye for the description of Ron.
Kindly continue the work against the odds for trying to give tigers a new beginning in South Africa-even though God did not place tigers in Africa, it is humankind that is decimating their population and thus humankind should intervene in saving the Last of the Tigers.
Regards,
Louis Pretorius

L  This is so very sad.  I’m so sorry to hear it!

 So sorry to hear JV. You've chosen a tough job, full of loss and heartbreak, but hopefully the reward of protecting such a threatened species in the unlikeliest of places makes it worth it.
 

Mr. Varty, this is deeply saddening indeed.  I first met Ron when I watched you and David Salmoni introduce Ron and Julie to the wild and taught them how to hunt. Truly amazing.  Of course it was through my television.  I have followed Ron's journey through out all of these years and tend to check in on him and Julie to see how they are.  I was apprehensive about opening this e-mail for what was in it.  I will continue to check in on Julie and the others.  You are in my thoughts!

Debbie

Dear John ,
I saw Dave and Shan last month and they told me about your book – I am thoroughly enjoying it and congratulations !
Xxx
Lynn

 Hi JV & Sunette,

Sad to hear of Ron's sudden passing, and grateful to have
happy memries, like him riding on the jeep roof...

- Burke

John and Sunette,
Please accept my deepest sympathies for Ron's passing. My heart cry's for his loss. Watching his growth from age 2 until now has been thrilling and educational. Tiger Canyon has lost so many special tigers this year, Runti who I felt a special connection with, Shine the beautiful daughter of Julie and Seatao and Ron, the king of Tiger Canyon. I didn't realize Shine was killed by poachers, I thought it was a fight with one of Shadows older male cubs. How are Julie's cubs doing? One year old already, what did you name them? I hope Julie and Shadow have stayed away from each other and no fighting. Well take care John, you have given all your tigers a life they would never have had without you. Love to the big cats of Tiger Canyon,
Carryl Edwards
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
USA

Hi JV,
Just read the news letter and very very sad to see Ron is no more. An icon is gone.  
The best is he spent his life as a tiger in Tiger Canyons. Though he was photographed, filmed lot of times, think he made a huge contribution by educating humans (visitors to Tiger canyons, people who follow your books, films, website etc) about what a true tiger is and why they must exist and this education to 1000s of people will go a long way in restoring his fellow wild tigers’ their place on this earth. 
May God Bless you in whatever you do to protect this beautiful beast. 
Attaching a photo of a wild tiger that I saw in Ranathambore a month back. A beautiful gorgeous lady named T39, 3 years old, moved away from her mom few months back and have an established territory. 
Regards
Siva

 

 
 

Tread lightly on the Earth

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


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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