The cartoonist Gary Larson once said, while people eat
millions of turkeys every year, there is no danger of their extinction.
No one eats eagles and they are in grave danger of extinction.
The same could be said of tigers.
Thousands of tigers exist in zoos around the world,
earning money for their masters as "displays", while the tigers in the
wild dwindle away as human beings take the last of their prey and home
The tigers moving to extinction, belong to the
governments of the Tiger countries, while the expanding tiger
populations in captivity, belong to the private enterprise.
We have a saying in South Africa "if it pays it stays"
and it seems that it applies perfectly to the tiger. A high ranking
official in the forestry department of China once said to me "what is
the use of a tiger on top of a mountain or deep in a swamp where no one
can see it. Put it in a cage where we can all see it."
Compare this to the mission statement of Tiger Canyons
which reads "save the tiger and you save the forests, the rivers, the
birds the insects and indeed all things that make up the pyramid of
The political systems in the Tiger countries, is where
the problem to tiger conservation exists.
The tigers are in the hands of officials, mostly state
forestry officials, who have never invested one cent in tigers. Most of
them are politicians, who know very little about tigers.
As a forestry official in India told me, people have
votes, tigers don't, so people are more important. If the politician
doesn't get the vote, then out he goes and a new one moves in.
In Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, in 2004, the
tour operators reported that tigers were extinct from the park. After
several investigations and emergency tiger census's and denials from the
Rajasthan Forest Department, the tigers were finally declared, more than
a year later, extinct from the park.
If tiger conservation remains I the hands of
government officials, it will simply continue to decline.
Under the Chinese Government, there are virtually no
tigers left in the wilds in China, yet under "private enterprise", there
are several safari parks with more than a 1000 tigers in them.
How do these safari parks sustain themselves? They are
profitable through tourism and they provide the huge Chinese medicine
market with medicinal parts of the tiger.
In other words, they are harvested like chickens are
harvested in a chicken battery. The skin, the bones, the teeth, the
whiskers, the claws, the fat and the urine, all have, according to
Chinese medicine men, medicinal properties. The net result is, a tiger
is worth more dead than alive. China has in excess of 1.6 billion
people, so the market for tiger body parts is huge.
Tourists visiting the park, can for various amounts of
money, throw a live chicken, goat or cow to the tigers.
South Africa is no different. Under private
enterprise, thousands of lions, mostly males (far more than exists in
the wilds), exist in cages waiting to be shot by overseas hunters in the
canned lion, multi million rand industry. Many people are revolted by
the thought of a magnificent male lion being shot, with no chance to
Cruelty flourishes when there is profit to be made and
private enterprise's goal is profit.
While conservationists agonize about the last
disappearing tiger, big cat auction sales in the Free Sate of South
Africa, freely offer tigers for sale. Many wont like this, but this is
private enterprise operating in the free enterprise market of supply and
The fact remains, any tiger in the hands of the
government are declining and any tigers in the hands of private
enterprise are increasing.
It seems obvious to me that what is needed, is to get
tigers in the wilds into the hands of private enterprise.
I followed a leopard at Londolozi for 14 years. I took
more than 1 million feet of film of that leopard. Londolozi guests took
literally millions of pictures of her and her 19 cubs. Films, books,
songs, poems and paintings survive today which pay homage to the
original "mother leopard".
Seven generations of leopards from the original mother
leopard, thrive and survive at Londolozi and many have dispersed out to
What was the commercial value of the original leopard,
a million dollars? Much, much more I can assure you.
Tiger Canyons Pic: JV
At Tiger Canyons, the tigress Julie is playing the
Her face has been seen in 106 countries around the
world. She inspired over 300 000 people who responded to the Discovery
Tiger Website. More than 300 hours of film have been taken of her and
her cubs. Thousands of pictures have been taken of her and her cubs by
visitors coming to Tiger Canyons.
JV & Julie Pic: Sunette
She is the only wild tigress in the world that will
allow a human being to hunt with her and come into her private den with
new born cubs.
My rapidly expanding web site is testimony to millions
of people around the world, who have a concern for the future of the
magnificent tiger and Julie symbolizes this concern.
What is Julie's commercial value? Million of dollars,
The Kruger National Park in South Africa recently
privatized some concession areas for large amounts of money. This I
believe, is the road to the future.
If Asian countries are serious about conserving the
tiger, then their mindset needs to alter radically.
Existing parks need to be given to private operators
whose jobs it is, to conserve the fauna and flora, including the tiger.
Private enterprise needs to be encouraged to start new parks which
Pilanesberg, Madikwe and Phinda are all parks in South
Africa started from scratch, which today support good populations of
lion, leopard and cheetah. The same can be done with the tiger.
Will Asian Governments be able to change a system
which has been entrenched for many years? For the sake of the tiger, I
sincerely hope so.
Forward thinking conservationists will take the Tiger
Canyons blue print and copy them in their own countries. The tiger may
be saved elsewhere from Asia.
Ultimately, these countires will film and photograph
and when their sanctuaries are saturated with tigers will offer surplus
male tigers for hunting.
When this happens, the tiger, like Gary Larson's
turkeys, will be safe in the wilds for future generation to see and