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Newsletter 145
18/05/17

King Corbett

Hello Friends 

On 10th January of 2009, Tigress Shadow gave birth to 4 cubs. Inside the den site I placed a surveillance camera and ran a cable back into my camp. From the monitor I could watch proceedings in the den. 

On the 106th day of her pregnancy at 10:30am in the morning, the birth of the cubs began (The 4 cubs were born over a period of 2 hours) 

I immediately took up a position outside the den and began filming through some strategic holes I had made. (The den was a dense thicket of bush with one entrance) 

The first birth occurred, but I failed to capture it on film as Shadow was facing away from me. Shadow gave birth to the second cub while lying down and facing towards me. This I captured on film. (5.5 Million people have seen the birth on YouTube)

The cub broke through the embryonic sac (I later discovered that tiger cubs do not have retractable claws. It is these sharp claws that cut the embryonic sac).

The cub immediately waddled out of the den into the heat. (The temperature was 38 degrees outside the den) 

I expected Shadow to go and fetch the cub but she lay exhausted inside the den. 

The cub was giving a loud distress call, but Shadow paid no attention. 

After 10 minites, I picked up the cub and crawled back into the den and placed the cub next to Shadow. Shadow thanked me profusely with staccato chuffing. (I had not interacted with Shadow for two years, but she showed no sign of any aggression towards me). 

The cub immediately crawled out of the den for a second time. (Tiger cubs are born blind. However this cub's eyes were open although it couldn’t focus. It was moving towards the light at the entrance to the den) 

This time I crawled next to the cub and chuffed it continually (chuffing is a sound tigers make by blowing air through their nostrils. The sound is easily imitated) To my amazement the cub answered me and immediately followed me back into the den. This time it found the teat & began to suckle from Shadow (later by matching the spot pattern on the cub, with the male tiger Corbett, I was able to determine that the cub that had had a conversation with me was indeed Corbett) The conversation which I had with cub Corbett, remains one of the magical moments of my life 

Little did I know that this tiny tiger would grow into the most fearsome & aggressive tiger at Tiger Canyons and would one day nearly end the project and my life.

After two weeks, Shadow moved the cubs to a new den site. One by one she carried them in her mouth. (I was able to walk with her & film her moving the cubs.) 

In the den she unfortunately sat on one of the cubs. (This is a common occurrence with inexperienced mothers). I have seen Lion & Leopard cubs squashed by their mothers.

While Shadow was away hunting, I entered the den & discovered the dead cub. (My intention was to weigh the 3 weeks old cubs.) 

On entering the den, two of the cubs froze invisible in the dense foliage. However Corbett, just 3 weeks old, attacked the camera, striking the lens. 

In this litter were two shy placid cubs. One was a female called Panna & the male cub was called Sariska. The third cub was Corbett who proved to be exceeding aggressive.

At 12 Months old, Corbett attacked a fencing crew & charged the men as they jumped into the jeep.  

At 18 Months Corbett’s nose was ripped by a blesbuck horn as he tried to throttle it. A 3 hour operation followed during which time Dr Charlotte Mouiex sewed his nose back into his face. 

At 20 Months old, Corbett killed the white tigress Shine. (Hunters had shot Shine with a dart in an attempt to steal her for a canned Tiger hunt. As Shine was recovering from the drug, Corbett killed her.) This is told in the book “In the Jaws of the Tiger”. 

Corbett set up an ambush at Shine’s body. As I moved out of my jeep to film Shine, Corbett charged me. (I was able to regain the safety of the jeep in the nick of time,  but left my bean bag behind. In frustration Corbett attacked the bean bag scattering the beans.)  

In the floods of 2011, Corbett swam out of Tiger Canyons into the farm land. 

As told in the book “In the Jaws of the Tiger”,  Corbett charged Rikie Pieterse as he was wading through the water. In an incredible piece of interspecies communication, Rikie  Pieterse was able to persuade Corbett not to attack him. 

Many people have asked me why Corbett did not attack Rikie that day. I believe the answer lies in the fact that that Corbett was outside his territory & in unfamiliar terrain. Had Corbett been in his territory he would have been more confident & hence more aggressive. On an island surrounded by water, Corbett was not as confident & this in fact saved Rikie Pieterse’s life.

Rikie’s ability to chuff Corbett & talk to him & calm him down, remains an extraordinary piece of interspecies communication.

At 24 months, Corbett charged me from 50 meters as I was removing a dart from his brother Sariska. Only by firing shots in front of Corbett, was I able to stop the charge & regain the safety of the Jeep.

A year later, Corbett was nearly killed in a fight by the male tiger Seatao. To protect Corbett, I put him in a boma. 

In March 2012 Corbett pushed his paw through the electric gate & attacked me. After grabbing me by the neck he proceeded to pull me through the gate & into the boma. Only incredible bravery & quick thinking by Julie Brown, Julienne Reid and Phumlani Mchunu saved my life.

In a joyous ceremony, Corbett was released back into the wild on 1st September 2014. (Corbett was given area of 1 500 hectares stocked with game.) On his release Corbett mated with Zaria who produced 3 cubs. One of the cubs was half white & half normal. (I suspected that Corbett may have been a carrier of the recessive white gene) 

A male tiger called Tiger Boy attacked Zaria & the cubs. Corbett immediately attacked Tiger Boy, but Tiger Boy got Corbett in a death grip. Zaria jumped on top of Tiger Boy, forcing him to release Corbett. Zaria effectively saved Corbett‘s life. (I have seen the same behavior with the Leopards at Londolozi when a female called Vomba female jumped onto a male called Tyson when he was throttling a male called Camp Pan Male who was the father of Vomba’s cubs). 

Tiger Boy killed all 3 of Zaria’s cubs. (I filmed Zaria eating the dead cubs. I filmed similar behavior with Mother Leopard & Tigress Julie when they had lost cubs.) A month after Tiger Boy killed Zaria's cubs, Corbett killed Tiger Boy. (Corbett immobilized Tiger Boy with a spine bite & then throttled him.)  

Two Months later, Corbett killed Tiger Boy’s brother Shy Boy with similar tactics (It is not always the biggest Tiger that wins the fight but the most experienced. Because of his aggression, Corbett was involved in many fights& became a very skilled fighter). 

Corbett caught two adult wildebeest cows. (Each cow weighed 250 kilograms). Corbett consumed both wildebeest over a period of 96 hours (Corbett weighed 200 kilograms and had the ability to take in 20kg of meat in one feed) 

To protect young dispersing tigresses, Corbett was put back in the boma. Corbett broke out of the boma attacking Tibo, Ussuri & Indira. He pursued a young tigress called Oksana. Twice he nearly killed her & twice she escaped. The third time he trapped her in the canyon & Oksana dug out under the electrical fence. 

As told in the last newsletter, a 34 day search for Oksana ensued. The search ended in a tragic result for Oksana. 

Corbett had now effectively killed Shine, Tiger Boy, Shy Boy & Oksana. 

Corbett broke out for the second time & again attacked various tigers. (Corbett has no regard for the electrical fence. He has learned to short the fence).  

Corbett was put back in the boma, but broke out for  the third time. (The third time he jumped over the gate, effectively avoiding the electric wires) 

After a long deliberation, I euthanized Corbett. 

Some people say it was a good riddance to a bad tiger. I never felt that way. I still feel a deep sense of loss. I am still a great admirer of Tiger Corbett. He had all the ingredients to be a territorial made tiger. Overloaded with testosterone he was extremely aggressive. He killed male & female tigers. He had become in the end a serial killer. 

Corbett nearly ended my life & nearly ended the Tiger Canyons Project. However I remain in awe of this magnificent Tiger. He was extremely well bred & I suspect he carried the rare recessive white gene. 

Today I embrace the attack by the Tiger Corbett as something I survived & which enriched my life. The passing of Corbett is the end of an era & hopefully new males will take Corbett's place. 

Rest in peace, Tiger Corbett.

Tread Lightly On The Earth
JV

 
 

Tread lightly on the Earth

info@jvbigcats.co.za
Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


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