Corbett (right), sister Panna (left), brother Sariska (middle)
On the 8th
of January 2009
Shadow gave birth to 4 cubs.
I capture two of the births on
film, as seen in the film Tiger Man of Africa,
The first cub born, waddles
out of the den into 38 degrees Celsius heat. He gives a distress
call, but Shadow is too exhausted to respond. I carry the male cub
back to Shadow, she thanks me profusely with staccato chuffing.
Shadow and Corbett
The cub immediately crawls out
of the den again. This time I crawl next to him chuffing him and
encouraging him to come back into the den. Although still blind, he
chuffs me back and follows me into the den and begins to suckle. At just 15 minutes old, I have
had my first conversation with a tiger cub. It is one of the most
magical moments of my life. The cub would later be called
Two weeks after birth, Shadow
sits on one cub squashing it. Corbett survives. While trying to film
Shadow eating the dead cub, Shadow charges from the den knocking me
down. This is told in the book ' In the Jaws of the Tiger'.
Three weeks after birth, I
crawl into the den while Shadow is away hunting. The idea is to
weigh the cubs and compare the weight with Julies cubs which she has
abandoned & I am hand raising. Two cubs freeze, invisible in
the undergrowth, while Corbett attacks the camera hissing and
At ten months after birth,
Corbett stalks a fencing crew. The scout spots him stalking in the
grass & although Corbett charges, all men make it to the safety of
Twelve months after birth,
Corbett is speared by a Blesbuck through his nostril, ripping his
nose from his face. A 3 hour operation follows as Dr Charlotte
Mouiex stitches his nose back on.
Corbett before and after operation
At twenty months after birth
Corbett kills the white Tigress, Shine, as she is recovering from
the drug which hunters have shot into her in an attempted theft.
Corbett sets a trap for me at Shines body & attempts to catch me
outside the jeep while filming Shine's body. In frustration Corbett
rips up the beanbag I have left behind. Such is the ferocity with
which he shakes the bean bag, that the beans fly into my jeep 10
At twenty-seven months after
birth, the fence surrounding Corbett's area is washed away in heavy
floods. Corbett swims out into the surrounding farmland.
We bring him back to Tiger
Canyons, where he finds himself in an area with the big male Seatao.
In a brutal fight with Seatao, Corbett is nearly killed, so I put
him in a boma for his own protection. This is the first time I have
taken a wild born, wild raised tiger and put him in captivity. It is
totally against my principles and contrary to the philosophy of
Corbett has the aggressive gene
Fourty two months after birth,
Corbett attacks me when I mistakenly think he is on an outcrop of
rocks 120 metres away. This story of the attack is told in the book
'In the Jaws of the Tiger'.
While in hospital, I consider
euthanizing Corbett and doing a scientific investigation into
whether there is any truth to the Chinese belief that the body parts
of Tigers have powerful medicinal properties. There is global
outrage at the idea of euthanizing Corbett. I abandon the project.
Corbett spends 24 long months
in captivity. Animal communicators from around the world visit him
to hear his story. Varying versions are conveyed to me.
At seventy months after birth,
Corbett will leave captivity for the last time. He has 1000 Hectares
of magnificent wilderness in which to become the dominant male. The
tigress Zaria will accompany him. Corbett's long walk to freedom
will be over.
This is a defining moment in
Tiger Canyons' history because it means all 20 tigers are wild and
Twenty eight km of fully electrified fence was
completed as a cost of R3 million. This took a full year to
complete. Fifty people from the town Philippolis obtained a job and
more than R500 000 was paid in wages.
I would like to thank Rodney
and Lorna Drew who created the magnificent area for Corbett, and
Kevin & Basil Drew for constructing the fence.
I would like to thank Jos and
Yvette Van Bommel and James la Vea, who helped finance the fence.
Some special safaris are
being planned for Corbett's freedom day, I will keep you informed.
Tread lightly on the Earth
I am seeking a partnership with a likeminded
cell phone company or other company to place a transponder in Tiger Corbett.
The partnership goes something like this:
Corbett is going into a large but accessible
A guest visiting Tiger Canyons would like to
view & photograph Corbett.
Using his or her cell phone the guest dials a
code which is linked to the transponder placed on Corbett.
Onto the cell phone comes the GPS
co-ordinates (global positioning system) of Corbett's location
The guest now with a GPS instrument and cell
phone in hand goes in search of Corbett.
Once Corbett is located, the guest
photographs Corbett... now the guest emails the photo and GPS
co-ordinates of Corbett to friends, family and Corbett
supporters across the world.
A Possibility? Absolutely.
As I write this - it is being done with
wolves in North America.
For the cell phone company the exposure is
massive. The potential to make a television commercial is huge.
For the scientist tracking Corbett, it saves
hours and hours because now he can find him quickly.
For the guest visiting Tiger Canyons, its not
only fun, but he or she becomes part of the giant experiment.
For Corbett, he carries under the skin, a
small cylinder weighing 400 grams which must be replaced every 2
I recently went out early and
found Mara on a freshly killed male Springbok. As she fed off the
kill, herds of springbok and blesbuck grazed nearby. I could have
been in the Serengetti or the Masai Mara except there was only one
vehicle and one photographer to record the scene.
We are still feeding the 2
males Runde and Sabi the odd warthog. However, I am confident that
both these male cheetah will become fully wild, self-sustaining
cheetah like the females.
In 2015, we intend adding the
third big cat onto the landscape, the African Leopard.
The leopard was extremely
plentiful in this area in previous times. Farmers told me that they
hunted the leopard with dogs and traps but
was only poison that enabled them to cause the local extinction of
Times have changed. Sixty-five
thousand hectares is now under wildlife and sheep and goats are
gone. Now is the time of the Leopard once again.
View the following songs on YouTube
1) Shine a Light:
Tribute to the white Tigress, Shine
2) Don't cross:
Crocs take out a herd of gazelles that try to cross the Mara River
3) Camera Man:
Tribute to world's best camera man
Watch a conversation between JV and Mandela during a defining moment
in South Africa's history