It has amazed me to see how many photographers, professional , semi
professional, amateur and amateur enthusiast, have responded to the
tiger opportunities at Tiger Canyons.
I often wonder to myself, what happens to all these images.
Is it our instinctive response to the fact that we know that "saving
the tiger is a lost cause" and we are recording a historical
record, or perhaps we are just compulsive photographers, searching
endlessly for that one elusive, magical photograph.
The professionals are very clear, they sell the pictures for money.
As the supply of tigers in the wild dwindles, the demand for good
photos and hence the price goes up.
The amateur enthusiasts are not so clear about what they do with
their pictures. Vaguely they say they are memories, mementos.
Recently I saw a magnificent documentary on the Tigers of Panna.
Beautifully shot, the landscape and the tigers are breathtaking.
Sadly the tigers of Panna are no more. It is certain that the Panna
documentary has become a historical record of days when tigers
thrived in Panna.
Like the extinction of tigers in Sariska Park, it took the Indian
Government a long time to acknowledge the tigers extinction from Panna.
My belief in Governments capable of saving the tiger wanes daily,
the only hope I believe, is in the hands of the private enterprise.
I would urge all photographers, professional or amateur to make
their pictures speak.
Collectively, tiger photographers and tiger photos can made a
difference. It's conceivable that Tigress Julie will have more
pictures taken of her in her lifetime than even Princess Diana. Yet
these pictures are worthless if they collect dust on some computer or
are locked away in a cupboard.
Don't tell me what camera or lenses you used, rather tell me the
effect the tiger had on you, the influence, the inspiration. Give me
ideas on how, together, we can use our pictures to create pressure.
We have the ability to communicate globally. We have websites,
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, cell phones and email at our disposal,
let's use them!
Tiger Photo Gallery
For the first photographer, Sunette Fourie
go to Tiger Photo Gallery
Shine, the white tiger cub, Shunda and Zaria, the
normal cubs, are playing on a frozen river at Tiger Canyons
Update on Tigress Shadow
Shadow has returned to normal. She can walk, stalk,
run, catch and kill as she did before. Her back right foot is
slightly turned inwards, but otherwise she is perfect.
Shadow's three cubs are healthy and still extremely
Death of a legend
It is with regret that I have to inform you that the
famous Mother Leopard known as 3:4 has passed away at Londolozi. She
was one month short of her 17th birthday.
As a young leopard with two young cubs, she and the
cubs contracted sycoptic mange.
With the help of Dr Dewald Keet, we were able to
dart her and her two cubs, effectively saving their lives and
extending her life for more than 12 years.
Tributes to her have been pouring in from across the
world. From guests, previous rangers and many who were privileged to
I would like to share some of these tributes with
renowned family of leopards mourns the loss of the 3:4 female and
the end of a seventeen year era. In 1979, the original ‘Mother’
leopard was the first to become relaxed in the presence of game
viewing vehicles. Her story and those of her prominent offspring of
nine litters have brought guests back year after year to view her
extended family. Of the six generations of leopards that originate
from the Mother, her last remaining granddaughter, the 3:4 female
has come to the end of her 17 year life.
Londolozi’s general manager, Chris Kane Berman, remembers his
first encounter with 3:4. She was ten days old with pale blue eyes
staring out from the safety of a rocky outcrop where she was born.
Stoff was twenty years old. “I have witnessed her decline over the
past 18 months with nostalgia, sadness and great joy for a life well
lived. She has touched so many lives including our staff and guests
who have returned year on year to pay her homage” said Stoff.
The response from our guests and staff to 3:4’s passing has been
profound. Messages from past rangers, guests and other members of
the extended Londolozi family expressing their memories and feelings
about this magnificent leopard have been pouring in. This week the
Londolozi rangers are wearing black ribbons pinned to their shirts –
a Shangane tradition usually reserved for the passing of close
family members and friends. At 11h20 on the 25 July 2009 all
activities at Londolozi will cease for one minute of silence in her
memory. Please join us wherever you are and share the moment. On the
Southern Cross Koppies in the heart of the Londolozi traversing
area, three small, leopard cubs were born last week - and the circle
of life continues it’s endless journey.
I am with you in spirit, shed tears with you and empathise with
your sense of loss. A relationship with a wild creature is beyond
expression. It belongs in another realm, one which we yearn for but
have only rare glimpses of. Everyone who knew 3/4 has been blessed
with this insight...feel gratitude and it'll come around
again...wait and see..
The words come hard and the
tears flow easily, but each tear shed is filled to the brim with
memories of a life privileged to have shared with the ThreeFour
She was my mother, she was
my teacher, she was my friend, she was my daughter, she is my soul
My heart swells with joy as
we find her. I came here to see her again not knowing how close it
was to her final hours in this physical world and was told she
hadn’t been seen for a while, and that I shouldn’t raise my hopes of
seeing her. I replied that to see just a track would be enough.
A dear friend drove me out
to her territory, and there she was, right next to the road, waiting
patiently for me. So close to the place where I first followed her
tracks on foot and found her with her first son, trying to persuade
him to go off on his own and take his rightful place in the world as
his sister had already done. The circle is almost complete.
I look into her eyes now –
as she nears the end of this life and approaches the next, and the
light in them has not dimmed. It shines as brightly, if not more so,
as the first day I was privileged enough to witness its pure
I see a coat faded with time
and remember how gold and lustrous it was in her youth. Her beauty
is something seldom seen in the physical world. I have not seen it’s
likeness before or since.
But the graying of her coat
is not something for us fickle humans to regret. It adds dimensions
to her beauty rather than detract from it. It tells a story of a
life lived longer, happier and fuller than the golden coat of youth
ever could – free under the golden rays of the Londolozi sun.
I marvel still at how she
tolerates our presence – at how she allows us this window into her
secret life. Even in these final days – she still lets us find her.
I know that if she wanted to remain hidden, the best trackers at
Londolozi, for all their brilliance, they are some of the best in
the world, would not be able to find her - such is the way with
leopards. But ThreeFour allowed us to find her time and time again.
She gave us the rare opportunity to witness her life unfold – she
shared her joys, of a simple rainfall after a long dry winter, of
those first golden rays of morning on her coat after a cold winter
night, of a full belly gracefully draped over the branch of a
Jackalberry after a successful kill.
She shared her sorrows with
us – cubs lost, her mourning to touching to bear.
She shared her hunts with
us, over and over and over again, even though our presence there, as
sensitive to her needs as we always could be, must have impacted
negatively on her success. She bore no grudge, showed no sign of
anger, just tolerance and forbearance.
Every mark on her body adds
to the incredible inner beauty that this leopard radiates.
Each nick in her ear tells a
The kink in her tail tells a
The scars on her face tell
of a desperate and fierce fight with a male leopard almost twice her
size, to try and save her young.
When I think of her
territory, I cannot think of an empty one, waiting to be filled with
some other. Her spirit compels me to think of the rocks in the
Tugwaan that radiate with the warmth of the memory of her body,
basking on them in the morning sun. Her energy and warmth will be
part of those rocks forever.
I am compelled to think of
the many trees that bear the imprint of her claws as she climbed
their branches to survey what was hers, or to drag a kill away from
other predators. I have placed my fingers into those same sacred
marks many times in the past and drawn energy from them.
Those imprints remain to
tell her story, for those who care to look for them.
And the sands of the Tugwaan
– No longer will they be pressed down with the imprint of her four
feet, but so many grains have been touched by her over the years,
her energy lingers in the spin of their atoms still. Each one
carries a part of her inside them forever – just as they carry a
part of her mother, who touched them before her. Her daughter walks
the same paths now and touches those same grains of sand. They are
all a part of ThreeFour’s story. It is a story that continues still,
through the lives of her cubs and their cubs.
And so though the tears pour
down my cheeks now, and I can barely see to write, I cannot say
goodbye, but simply - Fare Well my friend.
May your passing to what
lies beyond be a peaceful one. We will meet again in that place that
you travel to – my soul is bound to yours.
I end with the words of the
poet Stephen Cummings – ThreeFour would have liked them.
“Do not stand at my grave
I am not there I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle Autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds I circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.”
At Londolozi Game Reserve, I am sitting with an 16 year
old leopard who I call "Manana", the mother.
She is probably the most famous and photographed leopard
in the world and is the last remaining granddaughter of
the original mother leopard which Elmon and I habituated
way back in the early eighties.
The rangers at Londolozi call Manana 3:4 because of her
spot pattern above the whisker line. It is by this
method that all the leopards at Londolozi are
Tread lightly on the earth.