The Princess Diana of Tigers
(Tigress Julie - September 1999 to 5th December 2013)
"I want to stand
on canyon caves
When Julie brings her cubs to play
Future generations going back
From where they came
So much hope and so much faith
In you and me
Tigers are fighting back
They are running free"
On the 5th of December 2013, Tigress Julie passed
away at Tiger Canyons in South Africa. At the age of 14 years old,
Julie's kidneys had ceased to function. All the injuries Julie
sustained in the fight with Shadow had healed.
Tigress Julie was born in the USA in September
1999. As a young cub, Julie and her brother Ron moved to Bowmanville
Zoo in Canada.
I would like to thank Michael and Wendy
Hackenberger, who gave me two priceless gifts, Ron and Julie. These
two tigers became the founding tigers of the ex-situ conservation
experiment, which started at Tiger Canyons thirteen years ago.
Tigress Julie was one of the most widely traveled
tigers in the history of tiger conservation. Born in the USA, she
moved to Canada and then flew to South Africa, landing at Oliver
Tambo Airport. From there she went to the North West Province and
then on to Phinda Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal. From Phinda, she
flew to Hunters Moon in the Northern Cape and then transferred
across the Van der Kloof Lake into the Free State Province to Tiger
With the help of Dave Salmoni and Gillian van
Houten, I set about "teaching" Julie to hunt. During Julie's
lifetime I did over 300 hunts with her on foot. Many of these were
successful. During her life, Tigress Julie caught and killed 14
different species of prey, including catching large barbel in the
Van der Kloof Lake.
On one occasion, she caught an adult blue
wildebeest weighing 280 kilograms. Although the wildebeest pounded
her into the rocks, after a 40 minute struggle, Julie subdued the
wildebeest and throttled it.
In one hunt she ran down an ostrich at a speed in
excess of 40mph.
In an extraordinary experiment, Julie allowed me
to introduce the lion cub Savannah into her first litter (Savannah
would later prove that the hunting style of lions and tigers is
On many occasions, Tigress Julie allowed me to
baby sit the cubs while she searched for new den sites (Julie moved
the cubs every 6 to 7 days to a new den).
In a huge thunderstorm, while searching for a cub
in the tall grass, Julie moved 30 metres out of her way to inform me
that she had already found the cub (Julie chuffed me through her
nostrils while holding the drenched cub in her jaws).
Tigress Julie abandoned her second litter of cubs
(The reasons why she abandoned them are still not clear). These
cubs, Sunderban, Zaria and Shine were hand raised. Walking every day
with the cubs and swimming in lakes and rivers, remains one of the
greatest years of my life.
Tigress Julie's third litter was a litter of 5 of
which 4 survived. These cubs, Mahindra, Ussuri, Indira and Tibo (Tibo
is a white tigress), have all dispersed and become extremely
successful wild tigers.
In November of 2013, Julie became a grandmother
when Ussuri her daughter, gave birth to cubs.
In 2012, at the age of 13 years, Julie cleared a
3.2 metre fence, an incredible athletic feat. After killing 14
sheep, I walked Julie back 3 kilometers to Tiger Canyons using my
belt as a leash (Julie had not been on a leash for 8 years).
During the devastating court case which dragged
on for 11 years, it was Julie I went to for support and inspiration.
Sitting in silence with her, not filming, not photographing, not
speaking, were some of the most calming moments of my life.
The lies and deceit from the humans in the court
case, contrasted vividly with Julie's honesty and directness. I
vowed that from this time on, I would simplify my life and live by
the laws of nature, rather than the laws of people.
In an incredible act of "interspecies
communication", Julie implored me to help her into a cave to avoid
an attack from Shadow. (This is told in
Newsletter no. 83)
Tigress Julie is known throughout the world. She
was the star of the film "Living with Tigers" which showed in 165
countries and the film "Tiger Man of Africa" which broadcast to 180
Conservatively, a half a million pictures were
taken of this incredible tigress, earning her the nickname "Princess
Tigress Julie's life story is being written in a
book called "Icon Cats", to be published in 2014.
Julie's legacy is strong. She is survived by Shy
Boy and Tiger Boy from her first litter (Shy Boy and Tiger Boy were
Savannah the lioness's litter mates).
From her second litter, Sunderban and Zaria
survive (Shine was killed in an attempted theft for a canned tiger
Newsletter No. 38).
From Julie's third litter, Mahindra, Indira, Tibo
and Ussuri all survive (Ussuri has produced her first litter of
There is not much else to say except that the
relationship I had with Tigress Julie was profound. It changed and
enriched my life enormously. It took me to places and in directions
I could never have imagined. Some greater force gifted Julie to me
and the privilege of knowing her was life changing.
Her passing has affected me deeply and I will
take a long time to recover. It is fitting that Tigress Julie died
on the same day as Nelson Mandela. Both were giants, Mandiba in the
political world, Tigress Julie in the fight to save endangered
Julie was the ultimate ambassador for her
species. If you would like to make a donation to the "Savannah Fund"
which has been renamed the "Tigress Julie Fund", below are the
"DETAILS FOR FUND"
Seven Falls Trading (Pty) Ltd
First National Bank - Trompsburg
Branch Code: 230932
Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ
IBAN: 230932 62094732693
First National Bank
32 Church Street
Love Light and Peace
As told in my book "Nine Lives", I was with
Nelson Mandela at Londolozi when the AWB drove the vehicles through
the Trade Centre windows in an attempt to disrupt the peace talks.
I was able to see Madiba under great stress at
one of the most critical times in South Africa's history. South
Africans were fortunate to have Madiba at this crucial moment.
Without his leadership and calm, we would have been plunged into a
devastating civil war.
To the present leadership I say, we need to go
into the future with the standards, ideals and values that Madiba
has set us. This is our challenge!
Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela
The standard copy of "In the Jaws of the Tiger"
is out. We will begin posting next week.
We did experience a computer crash during this
time, so would all of you who ordered and paid for a book, reaffirm
your address where I should post the book. Email:
The leather bound is in production and will be
The two judges of the photo competition
Marsel van Oosten and Daniella Sibbing, are in the Arctic.
However, they will announce the winner before Christmas.
Thank you to all who entered and good luck.
We join you in your sorrow of losing
Tigress Julie. Although we only had the pleasure of her
company for one day it was a day we will never forget. Each
time we look at the many photos taken on that day the
memories come flooding back. All our friends have shared our
memories with us making our visit to Tiger Canyons very
May HE smile down on you and your efforts
to save these awesome cats.
May Christmas and the coming New Year be
everything you and your family have wished for.
Terry and Heather de Souza.
This is very sad news for me. When I look at
her on the pictures...her eyes are actually so sad at times...
Sorry for losing such a precious loved animal...
Gerda Geere Peach
This made me cry, for you and for
Julie. I feel for your deep loss, she was such a friend
and companion. It must have been excruciating to watch
her suffer. I have a friend who is an animal
communicator and she tells me cats are more pragmatic
about death than we are. I always hope this is true. I
send you my love and condolences and will also mourn
My deepest sympathies for your loss.
It is one of the great saddneses that
the animals in our care do not live as long as we do.
To loose good friends over and over
again is devastating.
Take time to heal from your loss of
The initiation of a journey which
started those many years ago is no more. Wendy and I are
honored and touched to have been part of the beginning,
The death of Mr Mandela was
expected: at 95 years he had a great innings and his
achievements are a matter of record. I also know
that he and Enos Mbusa went to Londolozi after Mr
Mandela’s release from Robben Island. This loss will
I am sure be keenly felt by you all.
Now I have just read the news
regarding Julie and wanted to commiserate with JV,
you and the team I know just how much that animal
meant to John and we were privileged to have met
her. Iain of course is particularly sad, we were
looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with
her in February.
A sad week. But both have
lasting legacies that will live on.
So sad to hear
about Julie – I have followed her for such a long time –
what a great gal and as you so aptly put, The Princess
Diana of Tigers
If it is still possible to order
the book, I would love to do sos
Our sympathies to all at the Tiger Sanctuary. We remember with
fondness our special time with Julie.
Wishing toy a safe, happy and peaceful festive season
Hugh and Bridget Bland
Dear JV - such devastating news - we can only
imagine the whole she has left in your life. Her legacy
continues. What a moving tribute to a unique and unbelievably
special tiger. Lots of love and thoughts Stoff, Debs, Meg's and
I'm so sorry to hear this news.
What a wonderful relationship the two of you had.
What a wonderful legacy, with your help, she created.
Two great spirits passed away on the same day.
You must be devastated - to have had
a tigress like Julie and to chuff her like you did with
such a great understanding between you was so special -
I was looking forward to meeting her next year. Can't
Very nice story. Thank you John.
It's very sad to loose a friend so dear.
We all thinking of you.
Have a great evening.
Suzanne and I wish to express our sincere
condolences on the passing of Julie. Although our exposure to
her was brief and at a desperate time in her life it was clear
to us that there was a deep bond, love and admiration between
you both and we are quite sure that you are saddened deeply by
However, like what is happening with Nelson Mandela's
transition, we must celebrate how profoundly she has impacted
many lives and one can only guess about the true impacts her
life will have on the future of mankind. We are hopeful that
the world is making a turn for the better when it comes to being
stewards of nature and all that is in it. We truly want to thank
you for the day we spent with you as it was the highlight of our
trip to South Africa and has already had an impact on how we see
the world and the work of giants in conservation, like you. We
look forward to the release of your new book and will gladly
donate to the fund you have created in Julie's name.
With heavy hearts,
Anthony & Suzanne Morreale
John.....Right now I cannot stop crying.
I saw the program Tiger Man a few nights ago on National
Geographic Wild. I could see she was getting better after
her episode with Shadow. I was so happy to see her. Did
her loss of fluids cause the kidney failure or just her time
to say good by?
How do we recover from such a love as Julie?
My thoughts r with you,
I am so sorry. South Africa has lost 2 wonderful beings. I
remember getting out of the car and sitting next to Julie. It
was an amazing experience. I can only imagine your loss.
I am so sorry.
Dear Family and Friends,
Sadly, the Princess of Tigers at
Tiger Canyons passed away naturally at Tiger Canyons
in S. Africa.
Jan walked with Julie with John
Varty's help when we visited in 2010.
Jan's words: As far as I am
concerned the greatest experience of my life
excluding experiences with our relatives and
children, was the walk with Julie. John was so
careful to instruct me as to all my actions which
resulted in a perfect encounter. That was one BIG
animal. To be able to pace along with 4 big feet is
a challenge in itself. Also Julie was rather
vocal—she snorted, whined, and breathed audibly the
whole time. Could that have been part of my sounds
also?!! Sitting by her as we all three went down
on the ground was another unforgettable experience.
Part of her tail and leg was touching mine. This
was MY clue to remain motionless. I am so happy
Stoney recorded the event photographically. It will
never be forgotten.
Stoney and Jan Edwards
I am soooooooo
terribly sad you have lost Julie, I read your emails
avidly and send them to all my family who are all Tiger
lovers of note.... this is soooooo soooo sad, I was
worried from the last email that she was badly hurt by
Shadow, she is and always will be a magnificent animal,
there is only one of each of us and that includes
animals, she truly is a beautiful creature, YOU are so
lucky fortunate and incredibly blessed to be able to
have relationships like this, they will last hundreds of
years and affect everyone differently.
God Bless You
and don't stop what you are doing, it is very important
work and every day you do this you are promoting animal
survival in Africa, this legacy will last way beyond all
grieve your way she will always be with you no matter
where and what you do
Dee ( a frustrated South African
in the UK)
What an absolute tragedy, such a terrible
loss for you, she was magnificent and I don't think there
will ever be another like her, just like the great Nelson
To you John and all at Tiger
Canyon, my sympathies. She was a true friend of
yours and I am sure you will miss her for the
rest of your life.
Animals have a special place
in our lives and their laws and lives are in
most cases better regulated than ours. They
become like our own offspring.
My best wishes
Mike van Quickelberge
I’m so sorry for your loss!!! She was beautiful!
Dear John and family!
I am saddened and cry with you!
That you shared this planet with so
wondrous a creature and friend is a gift truly shared by
Hello John and other staff,
My condolences, I
cannot imagine what the heartbreak must be after such a loss
with such a special creature.
The Creator of all has
put feelings in every creature, not only in Man and this has
been proven and shown throughout the animal kingdom.
Hi John & Tiger Canyons staff
It is with a heavy heart that I write
Tigress Julie was a huge inspiration
in my wax paintings.
I followed your stories from the time
Julie & Ron arrived at Tiger Canyons.
Unfortunately, I did not have the
priviledge of meeting or seeing Julie in real life but
she most certainly grew in my heart and as you mentioned
became an icon in the tiger world.
Please accept my deepest sympathy for
John..... How r u doing. My heart goes out to u. Live