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Where are the Champions?
Over the last
12 years of trying to save the wild tiger, I often
wonder whether I am not losing the battle. Is it not
an exercise in futility?
1) The worlds
human population has moved through 7 billion.
2) China and
India, two tiger countries, have a combined
population of 3.1 billion people.
3) In India,
tigers compete with 320 people per square kilometer.
4) The wild
tiger has declined to about 1000. A wild tiger a day
5) Recently the
tiger has gone extinct in the several game parks in
tigers languish in cages and zoos, circuses and
private collections around the world. (China has 2
safari parks with over 1000 tigers in captivity)
7) In the last
5 years, massive trades in tiger body parts have
been uncovered in India, China and non tiger
countries like South Africa.
8) A poacher or
disgruntled government official can get $15 000 for
the body parts of a dead tiger.
governments remain hopelessly apathetic to saving
the wild tiger and it remains a very low priority.
There have been
some high points but they are few and far between:
Putin, at the tiger conference in St Petersburg,
pledged $1 billion for tiger conservation. Since
this time he was granted the soccer world cup,
so it will be interesting to see whether his $1
billion does not disappear into soccer stadiums.
Of the high
profile, rich individuals in the world, none have
seen fit to champion the cause of saving the Tiger .
Buffet and Bill Gates have put money into
Mittel (4th richest man in the world and Indian)
has never taken to the Tiger cause.
has put money into land and American buffalo.
Branson has a game lodge in the Sabi Sands of
South Africa and appears to be more invested in
African wildlife than Asian.
Motsepe, a regular visitor to Londolozi, has
made a great deal of money from mining ventures
and owns a soccer club.
Johan Rupert recently purchased a buffalo bull
for R40million. This bull will cover buffalo
cows which will produce bulls with large horns
which overseas hunters will pay a great deal of
money to shoot.
In short, the
tiger desperately needs a champion with vision,
tenacity, resolve and money. Sadly there are none
has the only expanding wild population of tigers (20
tigers). The Tiger Canyons experiment still has to
prove that it is sustainable over a long period of
time. (more than twenty years)
I have urged
African governments and South African National Parks
to create National Parks in South Africa for tigers.
I argue that if we play cricket against India and
trade with India, can't we help them save an
endangered species? After all we live on one
planet, a self regulating system.
I argue that if
the two of the great leaders, Mahatma Gandhi from
India and Nelson Mandela from South Africa were
alive today, surely they would agree to work
together to save the Tiger.
scientists at Wits University who claim that the
tiger was once on the African continent and went
save the Tiger,
we save the forests, the rivers,
the birds, the fish, the fowl
and indeed the
entire Pyramid of Life".
My opinion is
that we are all Gaian children (Gaia is the Greek
Goddess of the Earth). But Gaia's human children now
number in excess of 7 billion. The resources of this
planet are finite. The wild tiger represents those
rapidly diminishing resources. The demise of the
tiger is a red light, blinking for all of mankind.
cannot save a magnificent creature like the
we cannot save ourselves".
On one dark
morning, when I felt that trying to save the wild
tiger was too daunting, I opened my email and there
was an inspiring letter from retired warden, Dr
Pablo. After reading his letter, I dusted off,
repaired my dented ego and went back to work.
hope you know that I retired from Indian
Forest Service in February 2012 and am
now a consultant to the Government of
Bangladesh under a World Bank funded
When I switched my TV on today, Living
with Tigers was on show. While watching
it I thought of writing to you that this
film is actually responsible for the
idea and success of Panna
reintroduction. I watched this movie way
back, I think in 2005, and started
thinking of inviting someone like you to
reintroduce captive bred tigers in some
of our national parks which have good
prey base but no tigers. But before we
could do anything concrete, although a
project proposal was prepared, we lost
our Panna tiger population, and we
started thinking of rebuilding that
population. As we had wild tigers
available, we did not think of captive
tigers for this purpose but my
confidence that tigers can be
reintroduced basically stemmed from
seeing you guys in the film. But after
the success in establishing the first 3
tigers, in an unfenced 700 sq km park,
we found it difficult to identify more
wild candidates for translocation to
Panna and I started thinking of using
the two orphans growing up in captivity
in Kanha. We started giving them wild
animals (driven into their boma rather
ingeniously) to feed and learn hunting
in their 6 Ha boma. They had killed
about 300 deer, and had no direct human
contact for nearly 3-4 years, when we
released them in Panna. But as these
tigers had not gone through the kind of
routine I saw in the film, I was worried
that their limited experience of hunting
in an enclosed space may not be enough
in the wild. However, these tigresses
surprised us with their success as they
did not seem to miss any skill which
their mothers could have taught them.
One of them has already had two litters
and raised them successfully.
Unfortunately, the second one has not
littered despite mating regularly. In
fact, before we started this project, I
had a thought that we should introduce
only breeding tigresses so that their is
no risk of any stray gynecological
problems interfering with the project.
Perhaps my hunch has come true as one of
the 4 tigresses taken to Panna seems to
have a gynecological problem. As we did
not have the time, money and the
expertise that you had to train the
tigers for introduction in the wild, I
had to take the risk of releasing them
in the wild without the preparation that
you would have approved. I took this
risk, despite huge opposition, on the
premise that we had nothing to lose,
even if the tigresses did not establish
in the wild. In the worst case scenario,
we would have had to shoot them or
capture them. That would have been, in
some ways, no loss to conservation as
they had not come from the wild. But,
thanks to your pioneering work, the
tigresses have done well and the Panna
population is already over 20 (I have
not had information of any recent births
or deaths). Perhaps, the wild tigers
will never go extinct now and if they
do, we can bring them back to the wild
from zoos. I think a lot of the credit
will go to you for showing the way, if
we ever have to reconstruct tiger
populations again. Just thought you
should know that we are grateful.
Dr. HS Pabla IFS (Retd.)
I am reminded
of the words of Nelson Mandela.
release of Shashe and Mara 15 months old
brought back memories of my years
filming cheetah in the Masai Mara.
Canyons has areas of long grass
connected with short grass. This allows
the classic East African stalk through
the tall grass and then the dash across
the short grass to catch the springbuck.
Photographers and filmmakers will need
long lenses to capture the action as
there two magnificent cats hit their
steenbuck, springbuck and young blesbuck
will be the favoured prey.
Canyons is now the only place in the
world where one can photograph wild
tiger and wild cheetah.
Safari - with Kumba & Aurora
I have pleasure
in announcing a unique safari on offer for a limited
time. The itinerary is as follows:
Philippolis late afternoon
Dinner at Oom Japie se Huis
Accommodation at Starry Nights Karoo Cottages.
game drive searching for Ussuri and the cubs
Breakfast on the platform
After breakfast, transfer to 'Tigress Julie Riverboat' on
the Van der Kloof Lake. (The luxury riverboat sleeps
Afternoon - exploring across the lake hunting and
swimming with tigers
Dinner on the boat
After dinner - 'In the Jaws of the Tiger' concert
hunting with tigers and swimming
Breakfast on the boat
In the afternoon - game drive looking for cheetah
(Optional helicopter flight over the lake)
Dinner at Tiger Canyons
Accommodation - Starry Nights - Philippolis
on the Earth
completely and cannot wait to be with you in
November to enjoy the tigers and cheetahs and
hopefully get photos we can use to help increase
the level of awareness and help to save these
Bob and Lucie Fjeldsta
Just an off-the-wall suggestion in response to
your question. I'm not your person; my pockets
are deep but not nearly that deep. ;) But
there are two singers where you might have a
"hook" if you can contact them or their
publicist: Katy Perry (recent hit "Roar" talking
about "eye of the tiger" and perhaps Frankie
Sullivan from the group Survivor (one of the
biggest hits of all time, "Eye of the Tiger" of
the movie Rocky III fame). I have no clue
whether either would be interested but it might
be worth a chance. I should note that I spent a
couple of weeks last year with John Kay, lead
singer of Steppenwolf (most famous song, "Born
to be Wild" in the movie Easy Rider). John has
been active with OFI and helping to preserve
orangutan habitat. He's also not deep-pocketed
enough to be your champion, but remembering him
made me think that a "whale" rocker like Katy
Perry would be and also might bring along a lot
of publicity, depending on her interest. Good
Also, you mention a unique safari for a limited
time. Any idea what time frame and what price?
I look forward to coming back with Marsel and
Daniella in June but might have the ability to
squeeze in another trip over and would likely
combine that with a longer stop in Madagascar.
Thanks for any information.
I read this with interest
and have worked on projects with animals
that are not regarded as sexy and
charismatic by the NGO's, activists etc and
the reality I believe is that true
conservationists are more endangered than
any species. Sadly and for the most the
level of interest and the regard to the
vulnerability and marketing support of a
species is directly proportionate to the
funding that can be raised...... just over
€14 million euros now destined for rhino
poaching, ......including procedures proven
to not work....... But the marketing is
great! Sadly too I find that for the most
the loudest voices have never worked in
conservation.....and so it's all about the
buck.....no horns and hooves, but a bankable
and corruptible buck all the same.
After some 23 years in
conservation and conservation broadcasting,
it appears that we are not saving anything
or creating a holistic environment for
species to save themselves.....in the a
sense of man they all do dam well......but
we are in broadcasting and conservation,
documenting the decline so the natural
world, one day at a time.......
Put a rhino horn on your
tigers, on the cheetah that we personally
have an interest in and the Warburgia
Salutaris tree.........and they too will
have their profiles raised but all in
Best of luck sir, I do
hope I am wrong.
The Nature Journal
John, don't ever give up please we need
people like you . I am a volunteer on
Glen Garriff Lion Reserve in Harrismith
and I know how hard it can be to
struggle on and keep fighting the many
factions thatare split down the middle.
Our lions are happy , well fed and the
genetic line is pure.
These are the happiest days of my life,
talking to lions, feeding them , taking
care of them . I know how you feel about
your babies , the same as me.
Good luck in everything you try and keep
going so many people appreciate all your
efforts . One day where will the future
generations see lions and tigers , what
do we say to them, we never tried to
save them, you can't say that.
You are doing a
wonderful job – never ever give up!
I love your
website and your work. I wish
there were some impressive
videos about tigers (like a
tiger bringing down a bull eland
or tigers on a bull eland kill
I liked your
post on which cats have the best
eye-sight. I have some more
information that could be
helpful to you.
There was a
British wildlife photographer
called F.W.Champion about a 100
years back in India. As far as I
know he was the first person to
photograph living wild tigers in
the wilds of India. He was also
the first person to camera trap
wild animals in the Indian
forests. In fact, until he
camera-trapped honey badgers in
Himalayan forests, a lot of
people had no clue, that honey
badgers existed there.
His work was
mainly in Himalayan forests,
foothills and valleys of the
Himalayas (almost exactly the
same areas where Jim Corbett
hunted - the Himalayan Terai).
In any case,
he published 2 books "With a
camera in Tiger land" and
"Jungle in Sunlight and Shadow".
Both are excellent books,
especially the second book.
In that book
he writes about the difference
in eye-sight of tigers and
leopards. What he tells is that,
camera-trapping tigers was
relatively easy when compared to
would blunder into the camera
trip-wires, the leopards would
invariably see the trip-wires
and step over them (he would
deduce this when looking at the
pug-marks of the animal and the untripped
picture the next morning when he
used to collect the traps).
strongly that he could manage to
camera-trap leopards only when
he used thinnest and "blackest"
of the trip wires on the darkest
nights (when there was no
that either leopards had
superior vision or they were
instinctively more cautious than
camera trap pictures, he
mentions and shows how much the
pupils of the big cats
dilated at night.
mentions unless one spends a
night in a jungle when it is so
dark that one can't even see
one's arm, only then can one
appreciate the vision and
perception of a big cat which
can stalk and bring down a large
prey in that darkness.
I thought it
was a very interesting
observation from him.
is about the much debated
I don't know
from where the myth has
generated that male lions have
evolved to fight while male
tigers have evolved to hunt. The
only people who can say this are
people who have never spent time
studying wild tigers in places
like Nagarhole or Kanha or
Kaziranga in India where the
population density of tigers is
It is sad to
see people like Dave Salmoni or
other "Scientists" who have
never studied a wild tigers or
wild lions in their habitat and
in their prime spreading this
myth. Please ask scientists like
Ullas Karanth or Raghu Chundawat or
AJT Johnsingh (all of whom have
studied male tigers in wilds of
India) before coming such
I also think
these people should read first
lion books of George Schaller,
Brian Bertram and Craig
Packer (great Scientists who
spent a lot of time in the wild
studying wild lions). All of
whom stress on how far
male lions go to avoid fighting.
In fact, in the combined 6 years
of study of Schaller and
Bertram, they saw only 1 serious
male lion fight to the death.
fights, the smaller coalition
quickly withdraws, runs away or
interesting thing is,
African wildlife has been
heavily filmed. We have seen
professional films of
wild lionesses adopting oryx
calves, gnu calves. We have
seen wild leopards showing
maternal instinct to an
abandoned lion cub.
despite all this, I have not
seen a single professional
film showing male lions
fighting to the death.
amateur videos of serious fights
between the ousted Mopogo,
Majingilane and Selati
coalitions in Kruger/Londolozi
area are the only existing
videos of male lions fighting to
the death. Even in those cases,
the coalition with larger number
of prime-males overwhelmed the
If male lions
fought so frequently as claimed
by Salmoni and other
"scientists", shouldn't there be
many more professional videos
showing them in serious fights?
For sure, it would be far more
frequent than lionesses adopting
oryx calves, right?
are more gregarious than tigers.
They are used to being in the
spotlight (so to speak). They
are used to being in the open or
being in a "crowd". Tigers
aren't. Like leopards, tigers
avoid open spaces.
rarity of tigers, especially
male tigers, there are so many
documented (and photographed)
male tiger fights to the death,
even very recently.
years back, a huge male tiger
called Konda in Kanha National
Park, India was killed by the
now dominant male Munna. Konda's
face was ripped apart by Munna.
Houseman in his magnificent 1998
film "Tigers of Kanha" filmed
the gruesome end to another male
tiger fight to the death again
in Kanha (with the defeated male
tiger's face being torn apart).
Belinda Wright captured
another such fight in Kanha in
her book on Tigers in the
tiger "Arjun" was badly mauled
in a fight with a male tiger
"Snarl". Belinda actually rushed
to the spot hearing the sounds
of the vicious fight.
tigers are so rare, it is
astonishing how frequently male
tigers fight to the death were
would be advantageous to the
lion since they are at home in a
crowded place. But a one-on-one
fight in the wild would be more
advantageous to the tiger
(really depends on the
individual lion or tiger).
I read your newsletter
today..i can understand
feelings that are u able to
help tigers or not..Ofcourse
john you are helping tigers
thats why people are taking
inpiration from you..yor
efforts are respective..but
this is not the time to give
up or to keeping your moral
down..conserving tigers is
neccessary not bcoz we love
them..bt bcoz tigers need
our help..and tigers are
showing extreme fight to
survive we only need to give
them some help..as tigress
machli is found after 26
days after long efforts by
officials..wat a fighter
this tigress is..she is 17
years of age she is weak she
is facing many difficulties
in hunting..her territory is
taken by her doughter but
still she is not ready to
give up and fighting for her
life..heads off to
machli..she proved that she
is queen of tigers..and she
reminds me of tigress julie
wat a amazing tigress she
was..at last good luck to u
Mr John..i m waiting for ur