It was a cold misty morning at Tiger
Canyons in South Africa, when the game drive came upon the
two tiger males, Sunderban and Shy Boy posturing for a
Sunderban, 200kg, traps Shy Boy, 185kg, against the river
bank, staring him down
Sunderban was in Shy Boy's territory and
was the bigger and more aggressive of the two. Five years
old Sunderban weighed easily 200 kilograms while Shy Boy 8
years old weighs less, maybe 185 kilograms.
This fight had been building up for
months and I was interested to see whether Sunderban would
take his coalition partner, Mahindra, into the fight. If he
won the fight, Sunderban would get access to a larger
territory and 4 additional females. The stakes were high, to
say the least.
Two male tigers box. Claws extended, trying to rip each other
Shy Boy did his best to bluff his way out
of the fight but Sunderban was pressing for the kill. After
a number of boxing sessions, Shy Boy tried to take refuge in
the river. Launching off the bank, Sunderban had the
advantage of height and knocked Shy Boy down and got him in
the death grip, by the throat.
Sunderban knocks Shy Boy into the river.
I have filmed many fights, kills and
brutal scenes during my time but this was by far the most
raw, the most ferocious. What made it so emotional for me, is
that I had been with both these tigers as they grew up from
Sunderban was abandoned at birth, so I
hand raised him. The hours spent in the canyon swimming with
him and his sisters Zaria and Shine, are some of the happiest
days of my life.
Shy Boy as a cub would crawl across and
smack the camera off the bean bag when I came too close to
In short these two tigers are great
friends of mine and I value that friendship greatly. I was
desperately hoping for a friendly outcome but it was not to
I could relate to Shy Boy situation as he lay in the
great jaws of Sunderban, the life draining from his body.
All I could do was stay neutral, stay calm and record the
unbelievable scene unfolding in front of my eyes.
Sunderban has Shy Boy in a death grip
Four minutes, five minutes went by. Shy
Boy has had it! He's out of strength and he's out of air.
Sunderban, presuming Shy Boy is dead, relaxes his grip
Suddenly Sunderban thinking Shy Boy was
dead, relaxes his grip momentarily. Shy Boy kicks
ferociously catching Sunderban throwing him backwards. Like
a flash, Shy Boy is back on his feet, boxing, ripping,
fighting for his life.
Shy Boy, using back and front feet, kicks Sunderban off
Two exhausted tigers stare each other down
The primeval scene is one of the rawest
and most brutal I have ever witnessed. Both tigers are a
brown colour from the mud, the eyes and white teeth stand
out against the dark background. The red blood flows from
both tigers and steam rises in clouds from their bodies and
Shy Boy stares into the face of a killer
Eight professional cameras photograph
from three viewing vehicles and I have no doubt that the
images will travel instantly across the world.
Shy Boy turns his head away in a submissive gesture
Hardened photographers elated by the
images they have captured are also shocked at the brutality
and ferocity of the fight.
Personally I am emotionally drained by
the ordeal, stunned at the raw power of the tigers, saddened
that two of my tiger friends are in such a brutal fight.
Like a triumphant boxer who jumps onto
the ropes after victory, Sunderban goes onto the highest
rock to proclaim his victory.
Shy Boy is lying in some rocks,
inaccessible to me and a vehicle. Is he hurt? What terrible
wounds have been inflicted? Will Sunderban attack him
again? What could I have done to prevent this terrible
tragedy? These are the thoughts racing through my mind.
One thing is certain, the expansion of
the tiger range at Tiger Canyons which started on the 1st
July 2013, cannot came soon enough.
Tread lightly on the Earth
Shy Boy gas been seen since the fight and he is fine.
I would like to congratulate Rodney &
Lorna Drew on purchasing three magnificent properties, Kromdam, Uithou and St Elmo's, which border Tiger
The purchase of these three
properties, allows us to greatly expand the tiger home
range and provides a large area for wild cheetah.
The extended Tiger Canyons now has 16
kilometers lake frontage of the Van Der Kloof Lake.
An 8 bed luxury lodge comparable with
Londolozi, is being designed on the canyon.
I would like to thank James Annenberg
for his most generous donation of 5 km of predator
proof fence, 30 blesbuck and a large dam designed to
accommodate flamingoes and swimming tigers in open