new website: www.johnvarty.com



Founder: John Varty

Tiger Canyons
Tiger Experiment
Invest in Tigers
Tiger Canyons tigers

Tiger Anatomy


JV Image Library
JV's Music

JV's Films


Tiger Conservation

Tiger Subspecies

Tiger Newsletters

Tiger Photo Gallery

Contact us



Select newsletter in right column

Newsletter 45

Tiger Subspecies

Tiger Canyons - Bridgena Barnard

Dear JV, is your theory on subspecies wrong?

I don't know whether what you are doing is wrong, you might really be saving tigers, but they do not have any genetic value.

I would like to point out most scientists still seem to support the 8-9 subspecies nomenclature. Even Kitchener which proposed that there maybe three subspecies, lists the typical eight subspecies classification system. Furthermore, Kitchener research was not based off of the latest molecular research. Firstly, the information that is posted on your site has was taken from Kitchener's paper "Tiger Distribution, Phenotypic Variation and Conservation Issues." and was reprinted in 2004 on the book "Tigers the Ultimate Guide by Valmik Thapar" I have that paper and it was proposed in 1999, making it eight years old, so it is not the latest molecular research. Secondly, his theory was not really based off of molecular studies, but on the tiger's historical range. In theory, all tigers from the mainland Asia (excluding the Caspian Tiger) had the capacity to disperse into one another's range to some degree. That was the basis of his theory, and not molecular research, but geographical distribution.

        In 2004 (some five years after), another paper has been published, and is the one based off the latest molecular research. The name of this paper is "Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris)" and I will describe it briefly. The paper is a collaboration of the world's leading tiger experts, such as Melvin Sunquist, Ullas K Karanth, and Dale G Miquelle. This was based off the latest genetic research based on blood, skin, hair, and/or skin biopsies of 134 tigers which known geographic origins. The study concludes that there are six subspecies of modern tigers alive today, the (1) Amur tiger; (2) northern Indochinese tiger; (3) South China tiger; (4) Malayan tiger; (5) Sumatran tiger; and (6) Bengal tiger P. t. tigris. However, the proposed South China tiger lineage is uncertain due to limited sampling of specimens. Nevertheless, according to the latest genetic studies, there are more than three subspecies of tiger. Therefore I conclude, according to the latest genetic studies, more than three subspecies of tigers exist.  

Adam Henk

JV Reply:

One of the biggest criticisms I get, is that my tigers are not purebred and therefore they have no value. Some ignoramus's have described them as "trash tigers"

I grew up in the days of apartheid when the white government tried unsuccessfully to keep the races apart.

Indians and coloureds were labeled non-whites. Japanese, because South Africa was trading heavily with Japan, were labeled "honoury whites"

In the 60's, the brilliant musician and satirist, Jeremy Taylor, recorded a song called "The Immorality Law". It suggested that the first thing that Jan van Riebeeck and his men did when they landed at the Cape, was to crossbreed all the black ladies to create the coloured race of South Africa.

Fortunately, they did not re-classify the coloureds as Homo erectus vanriebeeckus.

Taylor suggests in the song that farmers are cross breeding sheep, goats, cows, horses, pears and pumpkins to create stronger strains.

The Apartheid Government didn't see the funny side and threw Taylor out of the country.

Tiger Canyons - Elsa Young

Taylor's song reminds me of the time when I was standing in the Karoo, surrounded by two hundred sheep and the Government official said I couldn't bring the tiger into South Africa because it was exotic.

"Where do the sheep come from?" I enquired. The perplexed official admitted after some thought that they in fact came from Europe.

South Africa is covered with trees from Australia, Brazil, Europe.

Arabian horses are crossbred with American Saddlers and many are found across the Karoo landscape.

Tens of thousands of rugby supporters flock to rugby stadiums to watch a brilliant rugby player called Bryan Habana, race down the wing to score spectacular tries. Nobody says he's coloured, they just say he's brilliant.

Thousands flock to Tina Turner's rock concerts. Nobody asks if her mother is Native American Indian and her father is black American. If her concerts are good, thousands will go to see her.

Some confused rock singers like Michael Jackson are born black, but spend their lives trying to be white.

Ian Khama probably, Africa's most forward thinking African politician in terms of conservation, is the product of Sir Seretse Khama who had a British white wife.

Tourists don't ask what subspecies the tiger is. Is the light good, is the tiger relaxed, is the guide informative, can I get a good picture, is all they are concerned with.

The tigers were originally classified into 8 subspecies including Bengal, Siberian, South China, Indo Chinese, Bali, Javan, Sumatran and Caspian.

British biologist Andrew Kitchener points out that 7 of the 8 sub species were defined from only 11 specimens.

Some of the so called sub species, like the Caspian, were already extinct, so the skin, length of body and tail were considered when making the classification.

 Tiger Canyons - Jade de Klerk

A small river divided the boundary of the South China tigers and we all know tigers swim across rivers.

In short, the system was flawed and DNA has now confirmed that it is incorrect.

A studbook system along these classifications, was set up to get zoos to breed Bengal to Bengal, Siberian to Siberian and so the world would have captive populations of purebred subspecies of tigers.

Tiger Canyons - Mary-Beth and Bob Wheeler

When the Bengal tiger was finally extinct or the Siberian tiger has passed on, we can then dip into the gene pool and restore the tiger. This presumes that there is some habitat left for tigers.

Tiger Canyons - Dudley Steenkamp

I agree with the studbook concept, because there are many zoos that will inbreed tigers to create white tigers or golden tigers purely for profit.

However, I ask the question, how many zoos world wide have successfully put studbook tigers back into the wild? I may be wrong, correct me if I am, but I believe the answer is none.

Tiger Canyons - Dennis and Tertia Smit

There are 45,000 tigers in cages world wide and some are studbook. But that's all they are, tigers in cages that will never reach their wild potential.

When I started the tiger project in 2,000, there were 26 Tiger Organizations raising money to save the tiger world wide. There were reputed to be 5,000 wild tigers.

Today there are between 1,000 and 1,200 wild tigers in the world. So where has the money gone from the 26 Tiger Organizations? It certainly has had no success in saving the wild tiger.

The organizations raising money from the public for the various subspecies, don't want to see the tigers reclassified, because their particular subspecies is their bread and butter.

Tiger Canyons - Zelda Connock

So the last thing the "Friends of Siberian Tigers" or "Help the South China Tiger" want to see, is their tiger reclassified as Panthera tigris tigris - The Asian Tiger.

In my opinion, the studbook concept is academic. I feel extreme sympathy for the 45,000 tigers in cages, in zoos, circuses and private collections. They are not criminals and humans have no right to incarcerate them.

Caged tiger

It's an indictment against the human species that 45,000 tigers are "exhibits" in cages while a rapidly diminishing population of 1,200 tigers is all we have in the wilds.

Caged tiger

DNA has proved between the most northern tiger in the snow to the southern tiger in the forest, there is little genetic difference.

Snow tigers are bigger and lighter because it's more efficient in a cold climate, southern forest tigers are smaller and darker, more efficient in a hot, humid climate.

If I take the snow tiger and breed it with the forest tiger, what do I get? I get strong, viable, genetically diverse cubs with a high reproductive rate.

In other words, I get the best of the snow tiger and the best of the forest tiger. In short, I get a Bryan Habana and a Tina Turner.

When the smaller, darker wild dogs of East Africa are extinct from rabies, distemper or loss of home range, where will they look? They will look to the larger, more tan patterned wild dogs of the south. They are the same species.

South Africa is presently giving black rhino to Tanzania and Zambia.

South Africans are cross breeding buffalo from Tanzania with buffalo  from Addo, South Africa. Why? Because it gives them a stronger buffalo with bigger horns that hunters will pay more to shoot.

Hardened conservationists are now protecting the exotic Australian blue gum, because its flower is vital to the honey industry which would collapse if the blue gum is removed.

Farmers have been doing this for a long time. Conservationists are only now starting to think outside the box and if you are going to save an apex predator like the tiger, believe me, you need to think out of the box.

The tigers problem is simple, 1.6 billion people in China, 1.2 billion in India, 29 million in Nepal, 15 million in Cambodia, 54 million in Burma (Myanmar), 90 million in Vietnam.

Not one of these countries have a management plan to save the tiger.

At least at Tiger Canyons we have a population of 14 tigers. If we can capture more land, we can turn this into 140 very quickly, as we all know. This will represent 10% of the worlds present wild tiger population.

However, time is of the essence.

Tread lightly


Who cares what the genetics are, is that the molecule to look at whilst the species dies out? I'm an academic and shudder at the dry email you received from someone  who is more interested in the molecular details than in the Tigers  themselves. Sheena

Again, I applaud you for "thinking outside the box" and setting up a program that reintroduces tigers back to the wild. If "conservationists" don't start looking at tigers as a whole and not individual sub-species in which very few remain, we are going to lose the tiger in the wild.

I truly don't understand how anyone, including conservationists don't see that basically a tiger is a tiger and if sub-species cross, so what? It becomes a more diverse genetically strong tiger.

You make the strongest point ever.. with the millions of dollars raised for saving the tiger, why is it that the tiger is almost extinct in the wild? And if zoo tigers are never going to be released back into the wild, then they are no better than the "junk" tigers. A tiger in a cage, is a tiger in a cage.

At least you are creating a program that allows us to learn how we can return the tiger back to the wild. Or at the very least, have a "new wild" to see these animals. We have to have a model in order to learn how to successfully return animals to the wild.

The big cats I rescue will never have that opportunity to hunt and roam large areas. We give them the best life possible and they are content and seem to be happy and because of my relationship with them it allows us to do more studies, genetically, physically and mentally, but to call my animals or yours "junk" just because they aren't in a zoo's studbook is wrong. To save a species, such as the tiger, we must look at all remaining tigers, both in the wild and in captivity and design a program that utilizes the healthiest tigers to carry on a healthy genepool. I have seen many tigers (and other animals) in zoo's SSP and many have health issues or have become too old to breed, therefore limiting the breeding stock.

We do have a lot of tigers in captivity, but only a small fraction are considered by "conservationists" to be of value. Basically because they won't look at tigers outside the zoo's SSP. Basically they are managing the tiger to extinction. 

Terri Werner
Co-Founder / Director of Operations
Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
Tiger Missing Link Foundation
17552 FM 14
Tyler, TX 75706
As seen on Animal Planet, "Growing Up Tiger"

N. C. Zoo guy here again.....Even though you likely already know some about it, it might help in your discussions with others about the "purity" of tiger subspecies(races), to remind them also of the whole "Florida Panther" deal here in the U. S.  The remnant population of Florida Panthers(i. e. --cougars, mountain lions, pumas, catamounts--whatever you want to call them! At least tigers are just TIGERS, as far as common call names go!)) got so low, there were definite problems with inbreeding and the resulting infertility and less vigorous health. Despite HUGE controversy of some trying to preserve the "purity" of the Florida Panther(inbred-as-heck) gene pool, it was finally decided to introduce more genes from the nearest breeding population in West Texas--this was done successfully and there was immediate improvement in the Florida Panther population health and fertility(are your detractors unaware of this??). It is also believed by many involved that the Florida Panther population has been "supplemented" from time to time with escaped(or purposefully released!) captive animals, which some consider a GOOD THING overall for genetic diversity and health! I include myself in that last category! And many of the captive pumas in the exotic pet trade come from South American stock--so, so much for "purity"! The people who are apalled by this, as I mentioned earlier, remind me of purebred conformation dog show people, who will NEVER consider opening their studbooks and introducing new blood, even when their pure breed is suffering from all manner of genetic problems from inbreeding, and can no longer even do the work or serve the purpose it was originally bred for! Sadly and terribly common in the show dog world. Whereas folks like you and me are like people who breed and keep WORKING STOCK dogs, and whatever WORKS is what is kept and utilized--kinda like Mother Nature does anyway! So keep breeding your FUNCTIONAL, HEALTHY, WORKING STOCK, HUNTING TIGERS, by all means! Lucky as hell damn tigers, too--I mean, aren't your detractors even LOOKING at your photos? Your tigers are lucky as hell!!!!!
Sincerely(again), Lane Batot

Thomas wrote: "@Helen. Exactly what i think.i thought i have to say something when i saw some responses at JVs page. rarely saw such ungrateful people(animal lover) as some of the critics. All People who sit half the world away, havent seen this place in person but are complaining about the dwindling populations of tiger not willing to do anything but critise a man who puts so much afford into their conservation by giving them a second chance in a new, hopeful environment. who even says it are not bengal tigers. and if they are not clear bengal tigers to me they look pretty much like them at the pics because they are hybrids. and? they are still bengal tiger. when people visit this place they still see big, majestic tiger they want to see in similiar size and colour like the bengal tiger. their are also hybrids under german shepards and other dogs but they are still german shepards. and what some people called his tiger "trash tiger"? which animal lover calls an animal trash? i can hardly say that this are animal or tiger lover. and these are the last people who have the right to complain about the problems tiger face. wether if they are hybrids or not better some hybrid bengal tiger surviving as no tiger surviving. and to all those people who critise it because its outside of where they always roamed i say better surviving in a natural environment outside of their original habitat as totally extinct. as i m not a big advocator of zoos and someone who wants to put the last hope of tiger surviving at zoos( because zoos will not be able to breed succesful forever) i say its good that tiger get a second chance outside of their natural habitat where they are threatened = better extinct in their home countries but surviving in a natural environment outside their as being totally extinct in the wild. if their is a chance that they survive, being in game reserves established for them and human save of their attacks through electrical fences surrounding the parks as well as having the climate they need(what they have in africa) i dont see any problem to introduce tiger in game reserves in africa. i m really happy that this happened. because i had this vision already long time. long before i heard about this project i knew tiger will not have any future in asia because of too high human population. and i always especial since i have been to south africa twice i thought about tiger being great and doing well in some african countries. For conserving Tiger outside of Asia through my own expirience my first choice as well as my first thoughts where South Africa. After i saw the success of conservation in many parks their i said if tiger have a chance of survival outside of asia and the climate they require their would be nothing better than game reserves in south africa. see it works and has future. to all the critics the tiger dont live in cages , they live free and hunt for themselve. 360 km isnt to less.... i have been in any park(tembe elephant) twice with similiar size so i can say this is a pretty good starting point for tiger in south africa to give them a second chance. yes south africa has a big poaching problem with rhinos but even in this case as they really do so much against in genereal their conservation success is great. so if a species like the tiger needs to find a chance of survival outside of asia their couldnt be a better choice than south africa. Through the conservation affords in SA im pretty confident that this project will have more continueing success in future and they will get more tiger their with the time. Through my volunteer work in south africa i also learned like with the concentration of survival of a whole species not all sub species we need to focus at places where hope and already proven success like in SA is already given. SAD but it doesnt make sense to try to put the conservation success into all countries where it is necessary but many of them dont offer any hope. like india with high human population or some african countries which are political instabil or even suffer war. which some organizations do and get nothing but disappointment. if we focus at the right countries like SA, botswana, namibia which have long term success and probably will have in future as well we will happy of the survival of many endangered species instead of being frustrated but still can say that some of this great wildlife is around in future as well. all of the experts who visited tiger canyons just say the best about it. and their are those "experts" who have never been to africa by themselve, just having their degrees and get all their information of paper studies. like in all those people arent real experts you are just a well known expert if you have your degree and expirience in practical work at the places where you have been. so if someone critises JVs work or wants to talk with just experts with practical expirience in front of the places should come up. A Cheers to JVs Afford of making the first steps saving one of the most endangered animals on earth from extinction."


Tread lightly on the Earth

Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


Newsletters 172
Failing Rivers

Newsletters 163
Open letter to leader of the DA Party

Newsletters 162
Raising 200

Newsletters 161
Reach for 200

Newsletters 160
The Power of the Photograph

Newsletter 159
Predator Aggression

Newsletters 158
Open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa

Newsletter 157
SCI bans canned lion hunting

Newsletters 156
Tibo produces white cubs

Newsletters 155
The Indian Connection

Newsletters 154

Newsletter 153
Supermarket Shopper vs. Hunter Gatherer

Newsletter 152
JV's response to Elayna Kinley letter

Newsletters 151
Running on empty

Newsletter 150
The Survivor

Newsletters 149
In pursuit of Alan Root

Newsletters 148
Open letter re schools plus Panna cubs

Newsletters 147
It's Finished

Newsletters 146

Newsletter 145
King Corbett

Newsletter 144
Hunting versus Non Hunting

Newsletter 143
If it Pays, it Stays

Newsletters 142
Best Photographs at
Tiger Canyons

Newsletters 141
Lady Hunters

Newsletter 140
Londolozi and Love

Newsletter 139
Life is Not Fair

Newsletter 138
The Trump Card

Newsletter 137
Most Admired People on the Planet

Newsletters 136
Captive vs Wild

Newsletter 135
To trade  or not To Trade

Newsletter 134
A Defining Moment

Newsletter 133
I Have Lost A Friend

Newsletter 132
The World is Changing

Newsletter 131
Icon Cats

Newsletter 130
Sylvester the Lion

Newsletter 129
An Open Letter to Head United Nations

Newsletter 128
An Open Letter to Carte Blanche

Newsletter 127
Satellite Tracking

Newsletter 126
Lightning strikes 3 times

Newsletter 125
The Break Out

Newsletter 124
Bad Tigers

Newsletter 123
Tiger Boy's Journey

Newsletter 122
Give it a Name

Newsletter 121
Driven Hunts

Newsletter 120
Creative Conservation

Newsletter 119
Sariska from birth till death

Newsletter 118
Real Hunters

Newsletter 117
An Open Letter to the President: Operation Wild Lion

Newsletter 116
An Open Letter to Theo Bronkhorst

Newsletter 115
Cruel Nations

Newsletter 114
Subspecies or no subspecies

Newsletter 113
Tigers Moving Forward

Newsletter 112
Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Newsletter 111
Don't Shoot the Messenger

Newsletter 110
The Hunters

Newsletter 109
Gaia or God?

Newsletter 108
The Healing Power of Cats

Newsletter 107
Goddess Gaia

Newsletter 106
Ambassador Cats

Newsletter 105
Blondes have more fun

Gaining ground for tigers

Newsletter 103
Tibo's Dilemma

Newsletter 102
Wilderness Man

Newsletter 101
Sariska fathers cubs with white Tigress Tibo

Newsletter 100
Cheetah Survival

Newsletter 99
Extract from JV's speech on Corbett's Freedom Day

Newsletter 98
The Power of the Picture

Newsletter 97
Tiger Corbett's Release

Newsletter 96
Corbett's Journey

Newsletter 95
Bush School: Where are they now?

Newsletter 94
Open letter to Jani Allen: Oscar Pistorius

Newsletter 93
John Varty interview with Sizie Modise

Newsletter 92
Marion's Big Cat Safari

Newsletter 91
Full energy flow

Newsletter 90
Investing in wild tigers

Newsletter 89
Where are the Champions?

Newsletter 88
Managing the Genes

Newsletter 87
Capture the Moment

Newsletter 86
The Princess Diana of Tigers - Julie:
 Sept 1999 - 5 Des 2013

Newsletter 85
The Communicators

Newsletter 84
A Letter to All Conservationists in SA 
Sparked by the whole Melissa Bachman Debacle
by Maxine Gaines

Newsletter 83
Tell me what happened

Newsletter 82
Profit is the Name of Your Game

Newsletter 81

Big Cat Cub Safari

Newsletter 80
In the Jaws of the Tiger

Newsletter 79
Open letter to Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 78
Open letter to Min of Defense, South Africa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 77
Digital Photography

Newsletter 76

Newsletter 75
Rhino Horn Trade - Response

Newsletter 74
Raw Power

Newsletter 73
The Evolution of the Tracker

Newsletter 72
An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the best eyesight of them all?

Newsletter 69
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fastest of them all?

Newsletter 68
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best fighter of them all?

Newsletters 67
Wild Cheetah return to the Free State after 100 years

Newsletter 66
Seeking the genes

Newsletters 65
Corbett's Journey

Newsletters 64
In Search of a Mate

Newsletters 63
Rumble in the Jungle

Newsletters 62
Voronin Big Cat Safari Breaks All Records

Newsletters 61
A Journey to Nowhere

Newsletter 60
The John Hume Approach

Newsletter 59
Response to Rhino Horn Auction

Newsletters 58
A Letter to John Hume, SA biggest Rhino Breeder

Newsletters 57
Newsletters 56
Indian Government -
the wrong decision

Newsletter 55
What price must beauty pay?

Newsletter 54
Corbett's Freedom

Newsletter 53
Lethal injection or Freedom

Newsletters 52
The anatomy of an aggressive tiger

Newsletters 51
Majestic, breathtaking pictures

Newsletters 50
Tigress Calendar

Newsletters 49

Let your pictures do the talking

Newsletters 48

Rhino Wars

Newsletters 47
A Letter to the President

Newsletters 46
The Body Parts Scam

Newsletters 45
Tiger Subspecies

Newsletters 43
Your future and the Tiger

Newsletter 42
Talk to Me

Newsletter 41
Gaian Reminder

Newsletter 40
Ron's Journey

Newsletter 39

Newsletter 38
Beauty comes at a price

Newsletter 37

The Light Has Gone Out

Newsletter 36
The Beautiful Game

Newsletter 35
The Ethics of
Tiger Green Hunting

Newsletter 34
Tiger Hunt

Newsletter 33
The Year of the Tiger

Newsletter 32

Riding the Tiger

Newsletter 31

Runti's Journey

Newsletter 30

To intervene or not to intervene -
that is the question...

Newsletter 29

Lion - Tiger - Human Communication

Newsletter 28

Emotional humans, emotional cats

Newsletter 27

Julie gives birth to 5 tiger cubs

Newsletter 26

International Tiger Day

Newsletter 25

To all Photographers

Newsletter 24

A Shot in Anger

Newsletter 22

Newsletter 21

Newsletter 19

Tiger Birth
at Tiger Canyons

Newsletter 16

Tiger Courting

Newsletter 11

Privatizing the Tiger

Newsletter 9

Newsletter 8

Newsletter 7

Water Cats

Newsletter 6

Tiger Intelligence

Newsletter 5

Tiger language
Tiger Boma

Newsletter 3

Interspecies communication

Newsletter 2

Cub relocation


Death of a Legend

Newsletter 20

Newsletter 15

Painted Wolves

Newsletter 13

Response to Elephant Trust
by Daryl Balfour

Newsletter 12

Elephant Trust