JV and white tiger

JV and white tiger
JV tries to film Shine

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tiger Canyons: Tiger Diaries 27 July 2014

Tiger Canyons Is having the coldest winter in living memory. Watch how Ussuri & her cubs handle the ice when their favourite waterhole is frozen


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tiger Canyons: Tiger Diaries - 3 July 2014

Hundreds of years ago in Asia, the tiger would have pirated kills from the cheetah. Sadly today the cheetah is gone and the tiger numbers greatly diminished.
At Tiger Canyons in South Africa, we got a glimpse into that relat...ionship when cheetah Runde came to investigate tiger Kumba and tigress Aurora. Although totally unaware of the danger form the tigers, Runde fortunately turned tail and fled, easily outrunning the tiger.

Pictures by Richard Sheehan

Monday, June 30, 2014

John Varty Concert under the Moon

Conservation Songs - John Varty



Tiger Canyons: Tiger Diaries 1 July 2014

We have had our first interaction between Tigers & Cheetah at Tiger Canyons. Fortunately cheetah Runde outran tigers Kumba and Aurora.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trade in Rhino Horn

To: John Varty

You obviously supports the legal sale of Rhino horn and elephant ivory much to my surprise. I have to strongly disagree with you. There is not and never will be enough rhino horn and elephant ivory to satisfy the market for these products. One-off sales have not worked in the past to stop the poaching. They only feed the desire for more of the product. The huge influx of Chinese workers into Africa have been instrumental in the increase of poaching. The growing middle class in China has increased the markets for ivory and rhino horn.  

The only way to stop the poaching is to educate the Asian people. I watched a documentary just recently where many Chinese were interviewed and asked if they knew that elephants are being killed to get the ivory the people are buying. Most of them said they didn’t realize that and appeared shocked. The world has to put pressure on the Asian governments – mainly China – to find a way to stop the desire for these products through mass education on TV, in schools etc. plus serious punishment for those who are caught importing the product.  

What good will your plan do when they have sold all the horn, ivory and skins in the inventory? The poachers will go out and get more because now the market has been stimulated even more so they have many more buyers.  

Advertising is a powerful tool. Public service announcements and education worked in the U.S. to stop littering in the 60’s and substantially reduced drunk driving. The same mass programs could work to stop the Asians from buying horns and ivory.  

I am an admirer of the work you do in Africa but I believe you are wrong to promote one-off sales of ivory and horn. 


Judy Merrick


Hi John. I assume that this is tongue in cheek. I cannot believe that you would be for the legalization of the rhino horn trade. We have both been in the wild life industry all our lives and have followed the trends. Encouraging trade in wild life products with the East has never had any  effect other than to feed their insatiable demand thus exponentially increasing the promotion of the illegal trades. Cheers Mike Gunn.

How sad that Mr Varty chooses this option for our wildlife knowing full well that the once off sale of Ivory to Japan and China has fuelled this Elephant poaching crises that we have today. Tragic that this is what he wants for our rhino. Trade will not stop poaching or illegal horns, proper protection and a willing Government will. Instead of opting for true conservation Mr Varty has opted for human greed.

How regretable.

Bet Regards

Melissa Weavind

Hi JV 

I’ve enjoyed your antics (BTW: I say ‘antics’ in the nicest possible way) for a good number of years starting with the stuff you made with Elmon in the early years. The letter you penned to John Hume, posted widely on FB, leaves me a little puzzled. Controversy for the sake of controversy is fine but we live with the consequences. I suppose more correctly our children live with the dreck we leave behind. Are you really of the opinion that rhino horn sales be made legal? If so why? 


Mark Kirk

Hi JV 

I disagree with this strategy. 

Whilst the sale of an already procured resource, accessed either by de-horning or the confiscation of poached items, may seem attractive and logical due to its value, that value is derived and supported by demand, a demand which will be further encouraged by this sale. 

This is one of the most disappointing aspects of funding the protection of wild species, that the most valuable resource driving extinction can and should not be used to support conservation measures. 

I agree that we need to develop large funds to support conservation efforts in all areas of the world and for all endangered species and habitat; some of the more endangered have little intrinsic value available to drive support efforts and perhaps it is here where the fundraising strategy which I hope to discuss with you soon could be most effective. 

Unfortunately many in this world see nothing of value unless it can produce a profit. Wouldn’t it be great to turn this around in favour of natural resource management rather than bank balance management. 

I hope we can talk soon 

Steven Thompson


Hello friends, 

Thank you to the above for carefully thought out emails.  

When the National Parks had the auctions of ivory in the 80s, the Kruger National Park had 7000 elephants.  The Sabi Sand Game Reserve, where Londolozi is situated, had 5 elephants. Today the Kruger National Park has 13 000 elephants and Sabi Sand can have as many as 1000 elephants in the dry season. 

This seems pretty successful to me, especially as elephants are beginning to colonize the Transfrontier park into Mozambique.  

So kindly tell me where the sale of ivory at auctions has fuelled the poaching of elephants in South Africa? The above example suggests the opposite.  

In the 60's, the Sabi Sand owners introduced White rhino, purchased from Natal Parks.  

For 50 years we have protected, conserved, bred and paid for our rhino, which is now a sizeable population. Over the years, rhino have died of old age, being killed in fights and died from disease. The horns of these rhinos have been collected and stored in safe places away from the Sabi Sand. The horns have no value, because under the present law private individuals cannot trade legally in horn. 

By 2010 sizeable, sophisticated syndicates of rhino poachers were operating successfully in South Africa. 

South Africa is the stronghold of the White rhino, with a total of 18 000, 25% being held and conserved by the private enterprise (South Africa has donated Black and White rhino to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi amongst others over the last 20 years).   

By 2011 the poaching syndicates had identified the soft targets and 448 were poached in that year (2007 - 12; 2008 - 83; 2009 - 122; 2010 - 333)

The trend continued into 2012 and 10 have been killed this year (end of September; 4 rhinos were killed at Lalibela yesterday).  

So how do we protect our rhinos that we have bred up for 50 years?  

We protect them by becoming a hard target. You get a reputation amongst poachers that you will be killed if you try to poach rhino in our area.  In order to be a hard target, you have to employ a small army of highly trained well-armed men 24/7.  

To back up the ground crew, you need air power. A Robinson 44 helicopter flies at R2 600 per hour and fuel is increasing every 6 months. 

You need a radio communication network and you need to be able to pay for information. When you do make arrests you have to hire skilled legal people to make the charges stick. The poaching syndicates are well represented legally and many are slipping away on technicalities.  

As stated in a previous newsletter, the Government has done little or nothing to help the private enterprise combat the rhino poaching.   

So how do you finance this war against the sophisticated syndicates? You finance it with money, lots of money! Where does the money come from? It comes from the rhino horn stocks that have been lying in vaults for many years. (some 20 tonnes of rhino horn are presently in stock piles)

I was in the rhino conservation business long before I was in the tiger conservation business. I and Sabi Sand owners invested in rhinos in the 60s.  I and the owners of the Sabi Sand have paid to conserve and breed those rhinos for over 50 years. I and the owners of the Sabi Sand must now pay for the army to fight the syndicates (no Government assistance).  

The success of the rhino will be won by those who have the ability to protect it on the ground and those who can enforce the big jail sentences in the courts. 

Therefore, those who paid and invested in rhinos have every right to trade in the rhino horn that has been collected for over 50 years.

The inability to finance the army against the syndicates may well mean we lose the battle on the ground. This is not an agenda that I am contemplating. I intend to win and win big, to crush the syndicates and help move the South African rhino population forward to 36 000 in my lifetime.  

If people like John Hume, and others will help me, I will go all the way to the Supreme Court of South Africa for my right to legally trade the rhino horn to further the aims of rhino conservation in South Africa. 

Tread lightly on the earth.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Corbett's Freedom

Corbett confined in small boma

Hello Friends 

After receiving so many angry, caring and passionate emails, messages on our blog, twitter and facebook, I now feel positive about the future of the Tiger Corbett. 

I made people "physically ill". I've been compared to Mugabe and to the Hitler. I've been offered a choice between death and castration.  Can I come back to you on that one!

On the positive side, I received potential homes for Corbett in Colorado, the Sunderbans, Siberia, Sariska, in South Africa and in China where he can "hunt Chinese tiger poachers".

Many of you thought he needs a mate and sex, others thought castration will get rid of his aggression. 

tigers mating

Others told me that I must not "dilute the gene-pool". Jules Brenner sent me an article (American Scientist) about the aggressive gene. This was valuable input and I thank you.

Cam Steele believes this world is for "every animal, not just for humans". Gary Thomas told me that I "lived to tell the tale, let Corbett live to share the tale". 

The main thing is that hundreds of people participated in the debate and hopefully a good decision was made.

It is amazing that with technology, we can talk to each other across the world. All of us concerned for this planet have communication tools to change, to save, to adapt. 

The human population is now 7 billion people and we are pushing many species, including the tiger to the brink of extinction. 

I'm doing well in hospital and walked 800 steps without help today. Hopefully I will be back at Tigers next week and can continue with rehab at home.  

During all this time, I have of course gone through my own evolution and this is what I have decided to do:

I will create a 300 Ha area for Corbett. On the ground, the fence will be heightened and strengthened. Where there may be danger, double gates will be installed.

Animal communicators will be invited to communicate with Corbett in his boma and then when he is set free to see how he feels. 

If you would like to contribute to Corbett's boma, you can do this through the Savannah Fund (see below).

In addition, I will shortly hold an auction in Johannesburg to raise some of the R3 million that I need (details will follow). 

One of the things we will auction, is a life size bronze statue of Corbett. As I write this well known artists John Bassi is working out the logistics of how to create this magnificent bronze which will weigh 300 kilograms.

At the auction 15 of the best photos by Daryl and Sharna Balfour, Lorna Drew and Yvette van Bommel will be auctioned off.

Safaris from well known lodges will be auctioned, two big cat safaris will go under the hammer.

For any collectors, replicate jackets of the one JV wore which gave him protection against Corbett's teeth, will be auctioned. 

My new book "Hand Brake Safari - A Journey with Tigers" will be launched. Written with humour, it tells of the last 12 years of tiger conservation. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the joy, the sadness and of cause the attack.

At the auction there will also be a thank you ceremony for Julie Brown, Julie Ann Reid and Phumlani Nchunu whose incredible bravery saved my life. 

If anyone has anything of value, a painting, an art piece, a herd of blesbuck, a sable bull antelope, anything that has value that can be auctioned, please contact Sunette (info@jvbigcats.co.za)

We will let you know the final details of the auction, however, the first of June at 6pm in Johannesburg has been targeted.

When the new boma is completed and fully stocked with prey, Corbett will be darted, weighed, measured and then he will be transported to his new area. One or two mature tigresses will join him. The area will be stocked with kudu, warthog, mountain reedbuck, blue wildebeest, impala, blesbuck and springbuck. 

In the meantime, I need to get back to full fitness. Thank you again for thousands of messages from across the world. In my darkest hour, I could feel the positive energy.

Thank you to the staff, the sisters and the doctors that treated me at MediClinic in Bloemfontein. I am extremely grateful.

The threat by lethal injection of Corbett is gone and the freedom route will be followed. You have the satisfaction of having influenced my decision and I thank you for it.

Tread lightly on the earth

Savannah Fund:

A/C 62094732693
IBAN: 230932 62094732693

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lethal Injection or Freedom?

Corbett (right) with siblings, Sariska and Panna (picture Sunette)

Hello Friends 

I have had many hours at night to contemplate my future and analyze what went wrong. I have come to my conclusion that no mistakes were made, Corbett got lucky, but he hunted me fair and square. 

JV's leg wounds

Had his sister, Panna, not come out on the rock and deceived me into thinking it was him, I would have been far more cautious. The last few metres he covered the ground in a split second, it was incredibly quick.

In fact, when he caught me, I was moving away from the gate. The job was complete, yet he had the presence of mind to reach through the gate and grab me.

When a male tiger is ready for dispersal, nature equips him with everything he needs to become a territorial male. Firstly, his body bulks up, Corbett is in magnificent physical condition, his neck swells to make himself look even more ferocious.

He is prepared to take more risks as he searches for a new territory. This could be his first time of interacting with mature females. Sex, like in every animal, is a strong driving force.

Corbett can't do this, he is in a boma. He is confined when he needs freedom the most. He is angry with me. He was once wild and now he is confined.

I am not ashamed to say I am in awe of this magnificent cat. At the same time, I am afraid of him. He is the one cat of the 14 that has the power to destroy this project and take 13 other tigers with him.

I come from a background of wild life management. I have been taught to look holistically, to save the species, not the individual.

Take into account that in the 80's, I personally culled over 60 lions to protect the dwindling wildebeest populations in the Sabi Sand.

In the drought of 1985, when the buffalo were starving, I killed over 200 buffalo and fed the meat to the surrounding human populations.

I waited for tens of hours outside Zambia's Luangwa National Park to kill a crocodile that has killed and eaten over 65 people.

I have killed by lethal injection leopard and lion that could no longer catch their natural prey and were on the way to becoming man-eaters.

Therefore I am no stranger to these tough decisions.

Corbett confined (picture JV)

Consider Corbett's options:

1) Sell him to a zoo. There are 45 000 tigers in zoo's around the world.

2) The Tiger Canyons Constitution is clear - the tigers at Tiger Canyons must be free ranging - Corbett is confined.

3) Hunt Corbett for $200 000. I get numerous offers to hunt tigers, it is illegal. Tigers are under CITES Appendix I - they cannot be hunted and anyway, it is against my personal ethic.

If anyone has an alternative to my proposal, I would welcome any other route. Let's explore every avenue possible.

Corbett will be darted and then killed by lethal injection by a professional vet. His body must be treated at all times with dignity. I will have the vet systematically remove his body parts and this is where I need your help.

I intend to find the leading scientists in the field to test the body parts and to state categorically whether or not there are any useful medicinal properties as the Chinese claim. I will go to the best universities in the world to achieve this. Corbett will not die in vain.

Read Daryl Balfour's excellent response to my proposal:

JV and Julie (picture Daryl Balfour)
Dear JV, 

I have just become aware of your thoughts - and I pray it is not a decision fait accompli - of shooting/destroying Corbett! 

Please do not allow yourself to make this decision while you are lying in your hospital bed, in pain and possibly confused.  

Your many, many fans around the world, and me and Sharna included, will be totally devastated should you take such a drastic step. Such knee-jerk reactions can be expected by wildlife managers such as the old KNP lot, who for instance sent out the order to destroy the elephant Tshokwane after he trampled me. Fortunately I regained consciousness in hospital in Nelspruit before the order could be carried out, and was able to send my pleas for the elephant to the park warden, who acceded to my request. My point was that the elephant did what bull elephants sometimes do, that I was on foot in his terrain, and the risk was all my own. Nobody other than I was to blame, and certainly not the elephant. 

Although I was not present when your accident occurred, from what I have gathered Corbett attacked you as a potential male rival for the in-oestrus Julie, while you were closing a gate adjacent to where he was. This is natural behaviour, and you, JV, are to be commended for having managed to rear totally wild, naturally behaving, tigers in the heart of the Karoo. Destroy Corbett and you lend credence to all the nay-sayers & critics who like to refer to Tiger Canyons as "JV's tiger zoo". To the best of our understanding, Tiger Canyons is meant to be a game reserve where tigers roam in as natural conditions as possible. It should not be a place where people can get out of their vehicles and walk around, petting tigers. 

The accident (if I have the scenario correct) occurred because you were not concentrating, were not following your own strict safety protocols. If anything, the incident should simply make you more safety conscious, less willing to step out of a vehicle anywhere near wild tigers. 

I understand fully the reasons behind shooting known man-eaters...once a lion/leopard/tiger etc tastes Man, it will target this soft-skinned prey forever after. To my understanding though, Corbett did not manage to actually bite you (correct me if I am wrong) and his injuries to you were caused by his claws. Corbett is NOT a man-eater...he is a naturally wild and aggressive tiger whose testosterone levels were elevated due to the presence of an oestrus female nearby. Had he killed you or anyone else, become a Man-eater, the situation would be somewhat different. 

As Sunette asks in her email, should the tigers of the Sundarbans be destroyed because they occasionally kill & eat fishermen?  

Euthanize Corbett at the risk of losing thousands of your fans, much of the support for Tiger Canyons, and the respect of people who currently hold you in awe. 

I really think this is a decision that should not be taken until you are well over the ordeal, have returned to Tiger Canyons, and are able to assess the situation on the ground. 

A week later, Daryl changed his mind...

I have given Corbett a lot of deep thought and now agree that JV needs to put him down, painful as this realization is. The liabilities are just too enormous. He is proven to be aggressive, not only the attack on JV now, but his previous attempt to smash through the wire to get to JV when he was walking to the reservoir. That is now all public knowledge. 

If Corbett did manage to smash through the fence and kill an innocent person walking past the farm, say, down near the bottom road, Nature Conservation would probably insist the entire farm be closed down and JV would be sued for everything he's got, and we'd lose all that Tiger Canyons stands for.  

Corbett is likely to do this again, he's obviously anti-human now (despite Ricky's experience in the floods) and the risks not only to JV but to other tourists at TC are just too high. 

Sadly, if a leopard at Londolozi broke into a room, or climbed on to the deck and attacked someone there, it too would be put down. Wild animals are meant to have a natural fear and aversion to humans, particularly here in Africa and Asia where they evolved alongside of us, Man the Hunter. 

Yes, the sad facts are that Corbett is confined, frustrated at not being able to fulfill his breeding imperative, and JV needs much more land. In the interim, I think the least horrible thing to do is put him down humanely, not into a zoo cage, and not at the hands of some stupid big game hunter who'd probably injure him first.

Daryl Balfour
Safaris: www.wildphotossafaris.com

In my first newsletter, I've failed to thank the following people:

Dr du Toit Botha and his wife, Adri, who treated me in Philippolis, Dr Carin van Schalkwyk who organised the opening of the stops on the N1 for the ambulance. I would like to thank the ambulance drivers and paramedics who treated me for their excellent skills in keeping me alive.

In a conversation with Dr Willie Marx who assisted with the first operation, he gave me 10% chance of surviving the infection.

Today I have taken my first tentative steps, only 20 metres, but better than nothing.

Once again, I would like to thank every one around the world for their love, prayers and positive energy. I assure you I will be back soon into Tiger Conservation.

Tread lightly on the earth