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Newsletter 53

Lethal Injection or Freedom?

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

JV talks from hospital in Bloemfontein:

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 organized 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.

Kindly post you comments and suggestions on our blog

or on Facebook

Tread lightly on the earth


Please take me off your mailing list. I cannot for one minute support even implicitly such unfair behaviour towards animals in our “care”. 

Where is the animal communication in this, JV? You know how to. You know others close to you who also know how to. How arrogant to make decisions on an animal’s behalf.

How does Corbett feel about being left to simply BE who he is? 

In disgust,

Anna B

Remove me from your mailing list, you are abusive to your tigers and a vulgar abomination for rescue efforts.

Hi JV and Sunette! 

First, let me say that Bob and I were stunned to read of Corbett’s attack on you – and so pleased to learn that you are healing and progressing daily.  Another in the many lives of John Varty!!!..... We wish you continued improvement in body and the mental strength to make the needed decisions regarding Corbett’s future.   

That Corbett is not free these days continues to be the lack of fenced land on which he can roam?  It’s not been clear to us from the web site that this is the reason that he’s in a boma and unable to

claim a territory and, hence, likely so aggressive toward you (and possibly others in the future).   

Like Darryl Balfour, we were aghast that you would consider euthanasia as a realistic option.  But, for all the reasons discussed, this option seems increasingly realistic, especially given the possibility of a future Corbett escape and potentially fatal injuries to another person.  If it is indeed possible to have scientists study his body and determine the veracity of the health and strength claims made by Chinese medicine, then Corbett will have performed a service for man and tiger alike.  But we hope that you are able to locate such a scientist(s) – perhaps a Chinese one with some credibility in that country -  and to obtain such an agreement to perform this study before following through on any plan to end Corbett’s life.  

Your challenges continue to be overwhelming, JV, both personally and professionally… We send our love and healing thoughts to you across the many miles between California and Tiger Canyon and hope you know that we wish for you only the best of everything! 

Mary Beth & Bob Wheeler

San Francisco, USA

Hi JV,
The idea doesn't seem right even after reading from u and daryl...isnt a tiger supposed to do what it did...isnt that the natural instinct...and is one supposed to enter their habitat...
in which country are people given death sentence for an attempted murder...so why this punishment to the animal...
You definitely know better than me...but this doesnt seem right.


John I know how much you love all the tigers at TC and having to make a decision about Corbett must be tearing your heart apart. Why not give Corbett female to breed with? His breeding urges are out of control right now, why not give him what he desires. Try putting yourself in Corbett's place, selling him to a zoo would kill him. Having some hunter kill him would be torture under any circumstances. Don't decide anything until you are back at Tiger Canyon and can assess the situation with a clear mind. If Corbett can not have a mate, he will continue to try to kill you and anyone else. I never would under any circumstances suggest euthanizing a tiger, but if there is no other means to help Corbett than under a vet's control of euthanizing him would be the only humane way to put Corbett out of his misery. I have been a follower of yours since you first brought Julie and Ron to Africa and have watched them grow old and have cubs and even Ron's passing. I know you love Corbett and all the tigers at TC, please I beg you to wait to make any decision regarding Corbett's fate until you are back at Tiger Canyon. I would suggest reinforcing Corbett's area for security not only for humans but for his safety as well. My love to all the cats, hugs to Julie and Sunnett. Take care and get well soon. My love is with you and Tiger Canyon always.
Carryl Edwards
Hi John 

Good to see u on the mend.

 Unfortunately u have no option in the greater scheme of things, but to put him down. Any other option carries too many risks.

I am sure u will debate the question a million times over but the conclusion has to eventually be the same. 

Kind Regards 

Mbechu (Derek)

This makes me physically ill. I will never ever support this. You have him, you put up with him.
This is always what happens in the wild. You interfere, the animal bears the consequence.

Joan Cremen

I am both saddened and furious at your choice to kill this beautiful creature. Dont do it, he was once a wild animal,send him back to his home country and let him be wild again.
There is no way you can justify putting such a magnificent creature to sleep. If it goes ahead then you need to remove me from your mailing list, all respect for you will be lost.

Hi JV, Sanet and readers,

I got to meet and know JV in November of last during a calendar photoshoot with the aim of raising funds for the tigers. Having arrived on the farm from a bustling Johannesburg to a superior natural landscape and a tiger greeting me at the entrance, I felt at awe at what I deemed life to be. It took a while for me to fully understand the years of commitment, dedication and hard work that JV has put into caring for even one tiger, what to say about 14!

As the saying goes with great power comes great responsibility. Tigers are majestic cats with great power and should be respected as such.

Is it not human to overlook something once one believes to know ones skills and abilities? We drive on treachorous roads every day and even though we 'seem to be' checking all elements that could cause accidents they still seem to happen - not so? I believe with all my heart that not JV nor Corbett is to blame for this.

I got to meet Corbett during November as well and even then he displayed signs of territorial threat, allowing me, as female, close to the gate with the males getting a good stand down. He's really a big flirt, a big kitty cat, not a man-eater or overly aggresive animal.

To put Corbett down does seem extreme and my first suggestion would be to see whether we can work towards getting the 500ha of land for him to roam. Should we not be able to raise funds(which I believe everyone should be aware of, is not as easy a task as raising funds for a concern as the rhino poaching that is currently supportedly nationwide and just as important), we should maybe consider getting land with game closer to Londolozi and perhaps place a ranger that could provide care and love for him? This would raise the question of solidarity however which would have to be discussed in more detail.

I acknowledge people's feelings and concerns with regards to JV's words, but ask yourself this. If your dog had to attack you, your kids or anyone else for that matter, would you not consider giving him to the SPCA, finding him another home or even putting him down, should the damage have been severe?

I am a tiger canyons ambassador and will say that I am supporting the cause with everything I have. My comment is not biest, but a perspective based merely on the understanding of everything that goes into being a Tiger Man and Women.

Helga Barkhuizen
Miss SA International 2012
Tiger Canyons Ambassador

Hi John, no matter what happened, please remember you were in Corbett's home, not he in yours. He only acted naturally when attacking, had you been in the same position (roles reversed) you probably would have acted the same. If you have no other option, sell him to a zoo, but do not kill him. There are few enough tigers left in this world, you love tigers, please keep him alive, if not at your farm, then somewhere else. Thanks and have a speedy recovery. Madelein


I hope you heal well.  

I know that the cats I deal with are a lot smaller than your tigers but I can fully understand the difficulty of the decision you have to make.  It is never an easy one. 

Is there any possibility of him being released in the wild in a reserve in Asia?  The problem with this is that one doesn’t know if he will attempt to find people in such an area and kill them or if he will find a territory and/or a female and forget about humans.  Given the amount of poaching that occurs there, there is no guarantee that he would not meet that fate.   

Whatever decision you make, you will know that you have weighed up every option.   


Marion Holmes 

Cat Conservation Trust

JV this is a tough choice and one I feel you should do on a personal level and what you think the best choice will be to suit Corbett, no matter what you decide you will be given hell from the general public who really do not have the back round nor the knowledge to decide or choose. I have a worked in a veterinary practice for the past 7 years and after reading your last letter about his nature and his past and clearly you have done what you can for this beautiful cat it would be my decision to Put him to sleep, please do not hunt him even if you plough the funds back into conservation

Do not kill the cat!


Foremost always listen to your heart.  Do you really think that with you doing so much for these tigers that we are drawn to the inevitable conclusion that Corbett should be put down because he reacted out of instinct?

I think it is utterly unfair of us as humans to even remotely try and assume that we have any idea what it feels like to live locked up. And the moment Corbett reacted to a natural instinct he now needs to be put down.

What next? We will be killing tigers in the wild like we do already because human's are ever encroaching on their hunting territory.  So the human is allowed to commit a fowl but the moment the animal does he needs to be put down.

If Corbett gunned out there and was on the prowl every other day taking people out left right and centre then yes we can act as harshly as is being imposed. 

Your choice at the end of the day, but I'm sure many share my sentiments and my feelings when I say it's ridiculous and selfish to act out like this.

Warmest Regards


Great story Guys, I hope everything goes well and that you guys will get a solution.

Best wishes from another cat lover

JV wishing you a speedy recovery. Let Corbett be set free in Sunderbans in a natural environment. I don't think putting down (even an aggressive male) is an option


Dear JV

Thank you for your concern, I strongly believe that what Corbett is done is natural instinct and I don't think he can be punished for that. The scenario as explained by you was your carelessness and not Corbett's aggrasiveness( I would rather say corbett's naturalness. Let hem be free in the hunting boma and enjoy life.


Shubhaankar Chakraborty

I am absolutely horrified at this mail.   

This is the problem with man – he has good intentions of keeping a wild animal “to protect them in the long run” and then when the wild animal ACTS like a wild animal, man takes the all-powerful easy way out!!!!!!!!!!! 



Tami Pankhurst

Thank you for your video on You Tube regarding your wounds from the tiger attack.  Amazing what damage a tiger can really do.  Jasmyn and I hope you are recovering well with not too much pain.
Your dilemma is a tough one on what to do with Corbett.  In my opinion, the three options are not really valid.  A zoo would not be a solution to a wild animal already in a confined area; hunting is out of the question and the third to really end his life when he was doing what was natural but not in a natural setting is not the tiger's fault.
This is my suggestion and not sure it is a viable one.  Since it was the plan to return the tigers to the wild at some point.  Is it not possible to have Corbett (charge the appropriate government) and possibly a female (if one is not available at the proposed reserve) sold and transported to their original habitat in India, Sri Lanka or some other country and have him live out his life in the wild. 
How is Tiger Canyons surviving without you?  Is their a site where people could donate/contribute to help support your tigers and in the transport of Corbett, like Four Paws International Organization, National Georgraphic, Discovery Channel.  How are your medical bills being paid for? 
Look forward to hearing from you.  Regards, Betty Boigenzahn
Dear JV and team, 

Your efforts are great. I am a novice, but I love the wild and especially the Tigers. I have sat back and followed your story with the Tigers without any contribution, however I feel it important to voice my support for whatever your decision is with Corbett. You are the expert with the experience and practical knowledge to best decide the way forward; just look at how far you have come with Tiger Canyon. I would never have dreamed something like this possible in South Africa.  

In whatever small way, you have the support of my family and I and we wish you a speedy recovery. 

Kind Regards

Shaun Pillay

I am very disappointed, with respect you have placed Corbett in the situation he is in today he's a wild animal and surprise wild animals sometimes attack, you want to kill Corbett for what's in his nature.

The only thing Corbett as to relay on is his instinct you can't blame him for that.

Hope you can look in your hart I'm sure of one thing if Corbett had a choice he would choose LIVE in a bame rather than no live at all.

You are willing to spend a lot of money on scientist but not to safe Corbett sounds like you want re wench on Corbett I hope am wrong.


First of all wish you a speedy recovery. I do believe the attack was a natural tiger reaction.I also believe that if the animal is healthy we should not put him down and the animal has the right to live

My friend Pat Craig manages WIld animal sanctuary in Colorado. If we can find some way to transfer Corbett to Pat's sanctuary then  I will be more than happy to help here.

Pat - I don't the know the logistics and costs involved in this long distance rescue but I am sure I will be able to help some way. Call me anytime on mobile # 408-718-7870 and help me understand the logistics

Dear JV, 

I am glad that you are on the mend. 

As far as lethal injection or freedom goes , I believe that you are capable and qualified in making this decision. 

My thoughts are with you. 

Bhupendra J Purshotam

Dear J.V. I would suggest giving it more time.Corbett should certainly not be a trophy or cut up for T C M experiment. As you said he hunted you fair and square,give it a little more time. Regards Phil Davis

Hi John 

Having read your write up and both letters from Daryl, please allow me to comment and ask a few questions. Having spent time at Tiger Canyons and experienced the interaction between you and the tigers, can I ask why Corbett is being held separately from the other tigers?  Is this because of his previous aggressive behaviour? Would it not be fair to allow him to breed, as he should?  Would this not lower his testosterone levels some what and make him less aggressive for a time?  It would be such a pity to loose the genes of this magnificent animal.  If he was put down, would his sperm be saved and could it be implanted in one of the female?  What about castration?  When other animals are castrated they show marked decrease in aggression.  I understand all that has been said, but cannot help feeling that this matter deserves a lot more thought and believe there are other alternatives. John, I would welcome your reply. 


Shelby Anderson. 

P.S.  As you know, my experience is with Rhino.  Can you advise how I can get involved at ground level with the rhino horn debate and saving this gentle docile awesome species?  

Hi JV,
I would like to know what made Darryl jump from one train of thought to exactly the opposite??
JV, Darryl echoed my thoughts exactly in his first letter.   I cannot agree with his second letter and have no idea why the complete turnabout.  There will always be the risk at Tiger Canyon that a tiger may escape the sanctuary and injure/kill someone.  You knew this at the outset before you even started the project. What happened to you will probably happen again.... it goes with the territory and has not daunted you or turned you away from your dedication in the past.  You have had problems with the authorities from the outset and will continue to be subject to their scrutiny for all time. Don't let the possibility of a "maybe" incident in the future influence your decision on Corbett's future. 
Since I heard about the incident with Corbet, I have thought about the outcome.  If Corbet had killed you, I think there is no question that he would immediately have been put down, but that didn't happen.  So personally I think that its too soon for you to make a final decision.  You are in pain and feeling wretched about what happened and also cursing yourself for not being more careful.  You should wait until you are out of hospital and back at Tiger Canyons before you make any decision.  In your heart I think you know this JV.  Corbet deserves life. You know all the reasons why he is an angry and frustrated tiger - should he really pay the ultimate price for conditions beyond his control?
I have just read Darryl's first letter through again.... and I couldn't have said it better.
His second letter is a mystery to me.... it just doesn't make sense.
Get better soon JV, you must be driving the hospital staff crazy!!
Love, Trish.  

Hi JV,

With regards to your enquiry about testing on the organs etc. Dr Francois Terblanche lives in Philippolis ,he is a chemical engineer as well as a medical doctor, he also produces his own perfumes etc. He might be able to help you with info on lab tests or facilities. He also has a remarkable general knowledge. 

Kind regards 

Wanya van der Walt


Dear Sunette and JV

I feel so for you all at Tiger Canyon - in thinking ahead I saw this coming and loath the confrontation with conscience. If I feel so badly, and having read JV's letter, I can just imagine the confusion of emotions for all at the Canyon.

What a shame Corbett (love his name) cannot be put into the wilds of northern India - but is this not shifting the problem? He is not a man eater, but has the potential ... oy! 

I do not know you personally but whatever you decide I support you .... . For me the ideal, inspiration and reasons for creating Tiger Canyon are paramount to the preservation of tigers .... and creating a sanctuary for them in Africa - as removed as it is from their truly natural Asian habitat I think its of vital importance to tigers that the project goes from strength to strength. 

if Corbett is jeopardising that ideal then ......... at the same time could the next male coming along not put the Canyon into the same situation?   

Dogs are neutered to reduce the testosterone surge - could this be a 'keep Corbett alive option'???

Good luck with your decision

Wishing you a most speedy recovery and I look forward to visiting with you once Tiger Canyon is re-established as a wild-life destination ....

Sunette ... keep me posted will you ....????

Kindest regards

Jocelin Kagan
Dear JV
So sorry to hear of your misadventure with Corbett. We wish you a speedy recovery. 
However should Corbett be punished for doing something that most wild male tigers would do?
If the fence is electrified how could he push it down and attack a guest?
If your plan is to raise tigers in the wild, should you really be getting out of your truck?
I guess if Corbett is allowed to live, it would prevent anyone getting out and patting Julie as we did last year. But as sad as I feel for your awful experience, I will be also very sad if Corbett has to be euthanased. I do agree that a zoo is not an option. He would be desperately unhappy. 
Get well soon, our thoughts are with you

All the best

Dr Kerry Boytell and Dr Eric Lippey
Good day JV,
Sorry to read of your injury hope you recover soon.
my view is that Corbett be neutered. i believe animals that are neutered become more mild mannered and timid and since the hormones are not very effective he may sober down as well.
killing him should be the last possible outcome.
keep up the good work.
It is so sad but rather put him out than in a zoo or to let some looney game hunter shoot him.
Let him die in dignity even if it is by lethal injection

Having read the articles and watched the video, we are all astounded at the situation JV finds himself in. The attack by Corbett was horrific, it appears he is very fortunate to still be alive. The decision over Corbetts' future will, I'm sure, have lasting ramifications  whatever JV decides to do.
We would like to express our very best wishes for his continued recovery.
He is in our thoughts.
The Drayton Family


Corbett didn't do anything wrong. He wasn't born to be kept in a boma or a zoo. He is a magnificent tiger who is most probably the equivalent of the alpha male - I don't know much about tigers but in most animal species there is a leader. He most probably recognised you as an alpha male and you are competition. He also knows that you incarcerate him in a boma when he should be running free on the land you purchased for Tiger Canyon. I am very disappointed that you would consider allowing him to be hunted or to think of giving him a lethal injection - and no, definitely no, you can't send him to a zoo. If you use any of these three options you should consider yourself a failure as a conservationist. This poor cat might now have to pay for what you did - or what you didn't do. They should be roaming free - put tracking devices on them so that people can pay to take pictures of them, but let them go. How would you like to stay in a boma and have your freedom restricted. I don't dislike you at all and I really enjoyed watching little runt and how you tried to save him but ultimately let nature take its course, but really, let go of the ego and enjoy watching them in freedom.

I hope you don't mind that I am forwarding this to Lion's Rock. They might have a solution.

Dear Jv,

I think you should wait until you are back at Tiger Canyons before you take a final decision.

Would there be any merit in castrating Corbett?

I wish you very well JV in both your recovery and a horrible decision that might have to be made.


Gaie Fergusson

Lethal injection or freedom????   Are you insane?   Maybe you are, oh God of Tigers.  You're the one that left the cub die.  Your ego or whatever it is that drives you is truly messed up.  You, sir, have no right to make a death decision for a tiger or any other animal for that matter.  Your image of yourself is at best distorted. There are zoos  that would gladly take this tiger and give him a home, but reading your words, it seems you have made up your mind, noting all the tigers that are already in a zoo and that Corbett needs to be free.   What a bunch of bullshit.  Corbett needs to be alive.   Turn him loose into the wild or give him to a zoo with adequate space for him to live out his years.  As for you, the sooner you get the hell out of the wild and away from tigers the better off they will be.   To put it simply, you are an amateur with way too much time on his hands.  An expert on tigers you are not. 

What a terrible decision to have to make - but aside from the obvious emotional connection with Corbett, everything else put forward here as an argument for euthanising him makes sense, unfortunately....

Best wishes from Lesley and Jack
As I sit with tears streaming down my face, I am torn as I can only imagine you to be.... 

We met Corbett (from a distance, whilst he stalked the child) and many of the others on our visit to Tiger Canyons toward the end of the floods last year and each time I think of them, the hairs on my neck stand up the beauty, the strength and the power of these creatures is truly awe inspiring, but Corbett is a wild guy and probably will be the cause of your having to close down your Tiger Canyons one day.   

The work you do is incredible and I for one support what you are trying to achieve –  

I have considered the options and go with you on lethal injection  - a zoo or being hunted is not freedom.   

In light of his personality and his current situation, I have to say that I think his “Freedom” will be to no longer be confined. The injection and donating his organs etc to prove to the world (especially the Asian community) that nothing of his is good for man, except perhaps for us to see him wild, roaming, hunting, breeding and free. 

So long Corbett you wild guy. 


Hi John 

I am sorry for your current suffering.  

I am confused as to why Corbett is a danger to the Tiger project to the extent that it would necessitate him being put down? Surely not because he attacked you? That’s his instinct as a wild animal. I assume that you are raising Tigers who can survive in the wild and not domestic kittens.

And why is he restricted to a boma and not allowed to roam free in the park like the other tigers? 

Looking forward to your answers and your swift recovery.


I looked at the set-up at tiger Canyon on two occasions after you had been taken to hospital and my conclusion was that Corbett didn’t “hunt” you , I believe he challenged you. His boma is alongside Julie’s boma – she was in estrus at that time and was mating with Seatao. They were mating while I stood and watched. This is happening right in Corbett’s face and he can do nothing about it.Can you imagine his frustration? He can’t challenge Seatao nor can he get to Julie.  But you go in and out of Julie’s boma all the time. The day he attacked you, you had been in Julie’s boma .  

I remember Ron running right at you once to knock you down when Julie had come into estrus and we didn’t know yet. To get to you he had to run right around me, deliberately avoiding me. 

I acknowledge that the floods set you back but I also think that from a management point of view you do not have the  boma space to accommodate all the tiger’s TC is carrying given their varying dispositions . You will remember the ongoing war with Julie and Shadow….. 

In terms of Corbett’s future you may think in terms of subduing his aggression before you anesthetise him. Charlotte agrees that castration will certainly help. There may also be some drugs. A better fence would help. 

I am almost sure the research you are thinking of subjecting Corbett’s body to has already been done. Have you done a thorough search? 


There is 1 (ONE) option only which is nr 2 (TWO). Corbett can not be disposed of/punished or what ever  because he followed his instincts.

They are and remain WILD animals and being with them is ALWAYS a risk that is taken with full senses of the human being involved. How can killing him even cross your mind???? 


Maya Oosterhoff

Ja, this is a delicate matter. Although this is not a domestic animal and the consequences of his behaviour are obviously serious, I would consider castration under these semi-domesticated conditions. Don’t let our anthropomorphic feelings come into this (men often say they would rather die … but when faced with the choice, the decision, eg testicular cancer, is often obvious).  What he will lose in dominance and breeding ability are not really required by the species and will be lost anyway with the euthanasia option. We are thus dealing with the animal’s future joy of being alive. The world has millions (if not billions) of castrated cats whose behaviour has been modified in this way. This is standard animal management practice with domestic cats … and has made co-habitation in this shrinking word a viable option.

Food for thought?



Dear Mr.Jv ,
                   Hope u r fine . I am k.Shanmuganathan from Chennai ( India ). I am a great follower of u r programs in NG. Comming to the point I donot understand you startegy of having wild tigers in Tiger canyos . I would also like say that i am saying my view only from what i have read from this mail about Corrbet. As far as i am concer what u did was wrong . It is u r mistake to go into a wild tiger teritory or confine him to smaller place with out female tigers around  & if he attacks you it is not the fault of the tiger it is the nature of a real wild tiger you have achived what you wanted a wild tiger in Africa but now u r destorying the same by saying you want kill him for have taste of Human flesh . In a earlier statement from you about tiger conservation from India you gave a statement that the People in India are going in to Tiger terriotory so your concept of rewilding zoo tigers to wild one in INDIA WAS NOT POSSIBLE because INDIAN GOVT IS MORE CONCER ABOUT PEOPLE THE  NATIONAL ANIMAL. But now YOU HAVE FAILED IN TIGER CANNYOS IF YOU KILL CORBETTE rules donot change for you Mr.JV you shuld have not gone into corbette from what I read from you is you want to have a tiger population in Africa where all tigers are under your control . This way you can run a circus or a zoo not a forest where tiger rome freely. 
My suggestion to you is to try & send corbette to a zoo if you cannot send him to any forest instead of killing him at least you can save him from death.
As far as i am, conern of the 14 tigers you have got only real tiger is corbette if you kill him then tiger cannyos is not game park  it is JV zoo . If space is the constarin for Tiger cannyos then you should not have started the project at all its purely mistake of humans rather than the TIGER. If you kill corbette for sure you donot ever comment abou the Tiger conservations programs in INDIA & our man animal conflict. I herby request you to prove me wrong donot make the same mistake again kindly close the park & stop all the breading programs at tiger Cannyos. Today you find corbetee as a problem & kill him for a simple reason of being a real tiger . Tomorrow another tiger behaves like corbette you will kill him also ....?
This is were your mistake of moving tiger to Africa lies If you have started it in INDIA if you have a problem tiger it can be moved to any of the near by sancturies in INDIA ( i accept there will be delay in moving due to GOVt proc)but atleat the tiger has a chance. now that it is in africa you cannot send him to any other park beacuse it is not natural for tigers .
Sorry for saying some harsh truth sir I do have respect for you for all you have done till date in Africa except tiger cannyos .
With Regds


How about this?

Can you at least let him breed and pass on his genes before a lethal injection? I do see and understand arguments for both. Is there a zoo that would take him? It's just that Tigers numbers keep decreasing globally and the whole situation is sad, as his behavior was likely as Daryl originally described, but there is also the danger that he thinks he is so dominant that he can impose his will on anyone.

I pray you take a little more time before you decide.



My heart goes out to you in this time of pain – emotional not physical.

I am saddened to hear of the decision that has to be made.

Would returning Corbett to his natural wild country be an option.

I am sure the Indian Government would welcome the chance to get one of an endangered species back.

Just think about how many cubs Corbett could sire. 

I cry for the correct decision to be made. 

Take care


Hello JV,
If Corbett needs to be put down, I support your proposal to analyse the medicinal properties (if any) scientifically, prefably in conjunction with a (recognised) chinese lab. Before you make that decision, have you considered castrating Corbett in order to temper on his aggressive behaviour?
Trusting your decision,
Geert Kempkes
Mr. JV,

I am sorry for what has happened to you and am very scared for Corbett now. I was wondering if he could be found a home elsewhere, where the tiger population is very low and close to extinction. I know this might be an expensive endeavour for you, but because these cats are down to about 3,500 to 5,000 in number, there should be room for them somewhere.
How about getting in touch with Dave Salmoni and see if he can do something about it! Perhaps, let's try to deal with the aggression before resorting to drastic measures. (Sorry, if you have already tried it).
How about letting him mate with a female who is in estrus right now, in the confinement? Do you think that might work? I know Tiger Canyon is about letting wild animals run wild, but I think this is a time that calls for some extraordinary approaches - time when we need to break our own rules for others. 
I am a sucker for these cats, I can't bring myself to thinking about putting one down. 
I am really sorry, once again, for your suffering. I really hope you get back to your 100% soon and give us great news about Corbett. I pray for Corbett's and your recovery. 
Best Regards,
Suresh Thurairaja
Oh no John  

I am so confused now after reading this, I was so very sure in my heart that you would never ever put Corbett down and people that I speak to that have never even met you in person, tell me John will never put him down.  I know so little about this compared to you, but I know one thing that I love animals and I can’t bare the thought of them being in pain or us putting them to sleep, because we were involved in their lives and something went wrong. 

You are the most wonderful man with a heart set for animals first and that is what you have done and shown the world, you are one in millions! You were involved in Corbett’s life  and he attacked you and has tried before……did they not do this in India, do they still not do this?  Tigers are Tigers and yes well he seems to be a little more aggressive than the others, but that is who he is! Are Tigers not out there to hunt?  Some of us humans are a little more aggressive than others, we don’t put them out!! (although yes I know, funnily sometimes we might like to)  Oh John I have tears in my eyes for you and Corbett, the last thing we want is to lose you, but this is what you do, you are contributing to their survival and he is one of them, with a different personality.  He is not supposed to be around humans anyway!!!  So what do you think, you have worked with them for so many years and nothing would go wrong?   

You have been placed where you are,  doing what you do, with the passion that you have because it is meant to be you who does this, most of us (like me) love animals but don’t have the balls and courage to live our lives for them like you have, but you have and at the end of the day, no one else’s opinion really matters does it?  You have probably lived a far more exciting and fulfilled life than most people on planet earth, rushing around in their fancy cars from here to there with no real meaning in their lives and not many people loving or admiring them anyway! (living the rat race)  

My heart says don’t put him down, give him his space for a while and see how you feel in a little time, I know I am sounding like an emotional woman, but let’s be honest I am a woman & I have strong emotions when it comes to animals, I am not afraid to say it, I don’t want him to die….even if we can prove his body parts are of no medicinal value…..we damn well know that already!! 

I know John this is one of those extremely hard decisions you have to make in your life and I know that if something happens to you, who on this earth is going to do and carry on what you do?  You are rare and I am not sure you can be replaced but for the love of Corbett, don’t decide now PLEASE give it time, we humans have the power to out think situations, so do it, cause you can. 

I am and truly sorry this happened to you, but maybe this is also a warning, to be, more careful for the cause you live for.  I don’t know, I am just trying to tell you everything that I am thinking right now as I feel such pain for you and Corbett right now. 

John I wish you well in your recovery and pray that it happens speedily and that you are on your feet very soon again, as I said in your card  “This planet is not ready to carry on without you yet, so get better!” 

Regards to your special family, they must be so worried for you. 

At the end of the day John I will respect your decision even if I don’t agree and might be in pain over it.  I think I have said what I need to get it off my chest and I am sure you are getting so many peoples opinion on this but it is your decision to make…………………………… 

Thinking of you and wishing you well 

Lots of love

GG and Keith

I was under the impression that all tigers are man-eating predators. You seem to think they are just big cats that you can play with.
If you can't accept them in their natural role then please do the decent thing and fly them to India to a reserve so that they can live in their natural environment rather than in your ego park with you constantly prodding and poking and invading their personal space.
Your attitude to the cats is disturbingly unprofessional and I do not want to receive any further information from you. I have been increasingly irritated at your immature meddling in the lives of the tigers you "care" for and to be honest, you were overdue a mauling.
Your proposed petulant action of putting down a tiger that responds in a way that isn't "petlike" is the last straw. You infer that it isn't worthwhile sending corbett to a zoo as there are 45,000 tigers in captivity already, but in previous newsletters you constant bleat about the dwindling numbers of tigers in the world as a reason for your having set up the project.
However, your proposed action just shows how much you really value a tiger's life. if they don't play ball and allow you to manhandle their newborn cubs or splash about in a stream with you, they're out. Absolutely childish and pathetic.
Has it ever occured to you that the photo of you with a tiger draped over your shoulders is a complete aberration and unnatural and that Corbett is the real 100% natural tiger? it all seems to be about control and you playing the "big man" dominating and controlling big powerful cats.
Like I said, take me off your mailing list

Glad to hear you are recovering from the mauling
1. to put corbett down because off human error, i would feel it is wrong, i got mauled by a male lion a few years ago where a mistake was made aswell, the lion was put down years later when he had lost all controle off his bowls and bladder.
2. to use the animals body to proof the chinese wrong it as useless as we are trying to proof that rhino horn does not work.
3 to sell the cat to a zoo, it has the potential to do it again having lost it fear for man.
4 . to hunt the cut and get money to fund and save the other tiger is agains your ethics.
This is how I feel about the whole issue.
it sounds like you have already made the choice to put him down.
then lets kill two birds  with one go and both would benifit the cat and help the other tigers to survive.
Hunt the tiger on a cites permit, it is possible but under agreement that the "special" body part would go to proof the chines wrong, I am sure nature conservation would grand you a permit for such.
That way you could get funds for the tiger project and get to use the cat "special" parts to proof the chinnes wrong both would benifit from it the hunter gets a trophy and the cats help the other tiger to survive.
that is what i would do i know the press is watching you with a hawk eye and the world around but lets think about and use the cat to full, it sounds harse but you want to put it down, so get the most out off it, for the tigers sake and the project sake 
take care 
and hope you recover to the full 
kind regards
Hendrik Knouwds
Hi JV 

Although I understand you point of view, I still think this is a knee jerk decision of putting Corbett down. He is a Tiger, a real tiger that you have worked towards. And he deserves that respect. I would suggest spending some more time on thinking out of the box as to what are the options is the need of the hour. Even thinking and discussing with the parks around the world who are fighting to increase the tiger population may bring out a positive step towards relocating Corbett. 

I for a fact do not support your decision to put down Corbett. 


Vimal Sharma

Dear JV,
My name is Sybelle Foxcroft and I am a wildlife biologist and big cat
conservationist, particularly for tigers.
I am also the CEO of Cee4life (conservation and environmental education 4
life www.cee4life.org)

I am writing to ask you not to lethally inject Corbett, and to allow me to
rehome him into a correct facility with the best care.

Please JV, all me to rehome him. I have a great many contacts around the
world and I am urging you to allow me to rehome Corbett.

Corbett does not deserve to be lethally injected, please do not do this,
and please allow me to help in the situation.
My email is sybelle@cee4life.org

I dearly hope that you will contact me.

Sybelle Foxcroft

DeaDear JV,

It has been 2 years since I visited Tiger Canyons. At the time I was entranced by the tigers, and have wanted to go back ever since. I was 12 years old. I am now 14 and even I can see that killing Corbett could be lethal. There are few enough tigers in the world as it is.

Killing Corbett, or putting him in a zoo, would not accomplish anything. Wild animals that are put under confinement in a cage tend to become extremely agitated and aggressive. I have witnessed this first hand; in Berg-en-Dal in the KNP, the vervets and baboons that were in the camp are now placed in cages under lock and key. What makes this even more upsetting is that this is happening in a wildlife reserve. A possible solution is to release him into a country in Asia with a prominence in tiger population, such as Russia. Or try relocating him into Mongolia. A zoo would damage Corbett more than he damaged your leg. how would you feel if you were placed in a cage, or worse, killed, for just being what you are; what your entire species has been doing for thousands of years? In my opinion, humans think we are better than other species because we have opposable thumbs. Well world, I have news for you; apes do too. We aren’t better than animals, we’re worse; they kill for food, we kill for fun. So are humans more important than the creatures we destroy? Consider that when you make your decision...

Hi JV,

Somewhat premature to make such an emotional decision.

You have time to reflect, while your injuries heal and think about the situation which left Corbett no choice but to do what he only knows is instinct.

In cricket, when you are peppered by a fast bowler for the first time you always remember that hurtful moment..

You grit your teeth and face the onslaught with determination and what you have been taught to do.

You never throw in the towel , no matter what.

Corbett merely hit you with a lethal bouncer and you will live to tell the tale.

Let Corbett live to share the tale.

The harsh reality is, at that moment you dropped your guard and Corbett saw a weakness.

I passed through Phillipolis yesterday on my way back from the Easter break with the boys. I wanted to pop in but never had any contact details.

Wasn’t sure if you were still recovering in hospital or you were back on the farm.

Speedy Recovery


Gary Thomas

Dear John,

It was heartbreaking to read about and see your condition after Corbett's attack. I am still praying for your full recovery and safety from infection.

My anxiety when I was at Tiger Canyons was that John was almost alone in caring for forces of nature, tigers breeding and multiplying and he had to find both food and land for them. This is an enormous undertaking.  I thought the boma was a temporary condition because the cats were going off to the Eastern Cape. I am heart broken that such an especially strong male tiger will have to be put down. What happened to the move to the Cape?

I have asked before, but I will do this again. Is it possible to make all the locks electrified so that there is no longer the need to handle them outside of the vehicle?  Like the locks on garage doors?

There is so much going through my head right now. Mostly everything comes down to  money. If John had the money there could be more land, a trusted lieutenant to work with John and I am supposing the removal of tigers to new territory might be easier. Am I right or wrong in this?

If one believes in Tiger Canyons, you have to believe in John Varty's wisdom in handling it. My heart goes out to you and Corbett and I hope the very best of decisions and actions are taken. I put in a plea to think it through for as long as possible. I understand that Corbett is now not afraid of "Man the Hunter" - but he's a king cat, frustrated and bursting with hormones.  Daryl's elephant was also unafraid.

All my best wishes,

Wait until you are well before deciding anything. Perhaps there is something hurting the cat which you can't see. Toothache maybe.
Don't decide while you are in hospital. Get well and give yourself time to think. Snuffing out a life should not be an easy descision.
Good Luck and get well
Dear J.V
You have a dreadful decision to make. It is difficult to give you any advice on the rights and wrongs of having to put Corbett down or not. Should the reserve been to its full size, you could find a full size domain to accommodate Corbett, so he can be what he is: a dominant male tiger. But regretfully the reserve is not fully developed yet, so the alternatives are very limited.
J.V our family have spent 9 hours with you at Tiger Canyon. We were lucky and privilege to walk with 3 of the, not so small, cubs. We met Shine. We have been expose to these magnificent charismatic and enigmatic cats. And we have witness the respect (and love) that you have toward the tigers. We think that once you are back at Tiger Canyon, you can assess the situation and make your decision. We don't think that your reputation as a conservationist and the Tiger man of Africa will be tarnished if your decision  will be to take Corbett out for the greater good and the survival of Tiger Canyon. You are, arguably, the most well informed conservationist, especially when it comes to establishing a project such as Tiger Canyon, in the world.
We'll support your final decision whatever it may be.
You have all our respect, support and love
Jane, Seffi, Daniel and Kelly Margalit
P.S: maybe you can send Corbett to Siberia?? If he's there he'll have lots of space and a wonderful opportunity to hunt and kill some of these murderers Chinese tigers killers. It is a foolproof win/win solution.
Dear John
I cannot read any further. I am disgusted. You took on this project and now cause of this incident that you know is a possibility you want to put Corbett down. That is shameful.  I am absolutely horrified and you no longer have my support. You have no ethics.

This message is for JV and Darryl and it comes from a complete outsider looking in and feeling extremely saddened by the conclusions reached regarding the fate of Corbett. 

The way I see it, Corbett’s reaction was 100% normal.  He was reacting like any male tiger would do when feeling threatened by another male especially when female tigers around his were in estrus.  I don’t understand why such  a drastic decision has to now be made about his future, just because he attacked a man.  Isn’t this what tigers do?  The comment from Darryl about tigers in Africa being accustomed to living amongst humans is totally unbelievable.   

It is easy to understand why JV is now feeling the way he does.  The attack is still very fresh in his mind, he is still hurting from the horrific injuries and he is of course understandably angry with himself for not being as alert as he should have been.  This is easily done especially after all the years he has spent amongst tigers with a temperament like Julie’s.   

He also knows that in the future, because of the Tiger Canyons ethos of tigers roaming freely, Corbett has become a real threat and I mean this in the nicest way possible, as I have great respect for JV, his days of walking freely amongst the tigers is now well and truly over and he has to now be constantly looking over his shoulder.  But isn’t this how man’s behaviour should be around tigers anyway?  

Tigers are wild animals or have everyone forgotten this.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with Corbett and it would be a real sin to put such a beautiful animal down just because he has done what comes naturally.  The very thought of putting him down and them dissecting his body parts to investigate its effects on Chinese medicine, fills me with such profound grief that I can go out right now and scream out loud to the heavens in desperation at the utter selfishness and callousness of man. 

So these beautiful animals are now being investigated for the benefits of addressing the shortcomings – literally – of men.  How very conceited – so this obviously means that if the study on beautiful CORBETT’S DEAD BODY proves to positively make a difference or have an effect on Chinese medicine, then the conclusion is that people would be wanting more tiger parts, wouldn’t they?  So if it makes man feel stronger and more powerful, then go ahead and kill the tigers. 

Again, the comment I am about to make, I say this with the utmost respect for JV and do not question his dedication and time spent working for tiger conservation for the last 40 years.   He should be highly commended for his tireless work with tigers.

BUT HE IS NOT THINKIING CLEARLY AND IS OBVIOUSLY TAKING SOME HEAVY PAINKILLING DRUGS. Hence he can’t be in his right mind at all, when he even suggests taking such drastic action.

Please, I appeal to you and I know I am speaking for millions of others out there, please don’t put Corbett down.  Please reconsider. 

Who are we to play GOD and how dare we presume to have the power over the life of such a beautiful animal like Corbett.

Even mentioning the words LETHAL INJECTION and CORBETT  in the same sentence, fills me with dread.

If JV feels so strongly that he can’t be around Corbett or work freely amongst the tigers for fear of another attack by Corbett, he should send him away to a place where he can run freely as tigers were meant to do, not to live under the constant watchful eye of man who more often than not, forget the true nature of these wonderful animals when they satisfy a deep need to live amongst them. 

A Tiger Supporter

Dear John,

Well before your newsletter arrived, I was wondering what you would do to Corbett, he having shown motivated aggression towards you. Tiger lovers(include me) won't like lethal injection. But you are more experienced and perhaps more knowledgeable, besides being emotionally close to your tigers and I am sure, eventually you will take the right decision, even if a difficult one. But as Daryl has suggested, give yourself time and perhaps upto your return to normality.

Best regards/ kunj
Hello John, 

I am so sorry to read about your injury by Corbett and hope you recover fast and fully.  

A comment attributed to you said that you thought the aggression exhibited by Corbett was genetic as evidenced by his behaviour from birth. That really drew my attention. 

Just last night I was watching a program on NOVA about how dogs evolved to be our best buddies, with the usual suggestion that they diverged from wolves. The program featured some research done by a Russian scientist Dmitry Belyaev over many decades during which he bred foxes and selected over 50 or so generations. One of the observations was for aggression versus tameness (evidenced by levels of adrenaline in their blood). 

He found that aggression was part of the genetics and was able to isolate groups of animals which showed no agression, and by implanting an embryo of an “aggressive” fox into a tame mother he found that the resulting offspring exhibited clear signs of aggression. 

One of the most interesting outcomes of the study was that as the nature of the foxes changed through generations, and he got to completely tame animals, so did their physical features. (I think that this was the main focus of the study – the agression observations were secondary). 

I’ll stop there – there is too much to go into, but I was captivated by what appeared to be pretty good evidence for the existence of agression in genes (nature, not nurture). 

I have pasted in below an article excerpted from the American Scientist (in 2002) on this experiment that might interest you. 

Best regards and good luck with recovery,


If you kill Corbett, John Varty, you will destroy not only a beautiful,
healthy specimen of a rapidly vanishing species, you will destroy your
career and Tiger Canyons as well. There ARE places Corbett could be sent
to, there ARE alternatives to putting him down. Corbett is NOT a rabid
dog, he just got the best of you. Respect him and admire him for that!!
And let him live. After all, he let YOU live, didn't he?? Think about
that!! If he had gone for your throat, no number of people could have
saved you. Maneater?? Hardly. You are the one who is supposed to know
better, John Varty, not Corbett.

Just the fact that one of your so-called "options" for Corbett was to
allow him to be HUNTED for a paultry $200,000 shows what kind of man you
are.  And Corbett is a far better tiger.  He proved that to you.  He
deserves to live.

Rita Nunn

Dear JV,

I am so pleased to hear that you are on the mend.   My thoughts and prayers are with you.

In regards to putting Corbett down, I have some thoughts.   I am not a wildlife biologist by any means, but have studied animals both wild and domesticated.   You mentioned that he was filled with testosterone with a female (Julie?) around.  I know that with domestic animals, neutering males takes a lot of their aggression away.   Could you possibly 'fix' Corbett, and perhaps freeze his sperm for future use in the process???    Again, I don't know about such apex predators, but if it works for an aggressive dog, why not??   I always feel badly when an animal has to pay the ultimate price for messing with humans.   We have hurt so many more of them...

I do not mean to minimize what has happened to you, but I just respect you so much and hope that you make the right decision.

Colorado, USA

Dear JV, 

We sympathise with your present circumstances and thoughts.

Having visited TC, and meeting you and some of your tigers, we were of the opinion

that your venture in saving the species was honourable and most commendable. 

We understood that it was part of the plan to relocate tigers when possible to

other parts of the world including their natural habitat if possible. 

Corbett is not a maneater as you avoided this possibility, and as such your decision(?) to

put the animal down cannot be justified on this point. Having the best scientists confirm

that body parts are of no benefit to humans will do very little if anything to dispel the

myth that is perception by many Far Eastern people viz: Rhinos. 

During our visit you mentioned other countries that could be ‘home’ to tigers.

Before you take the final decision, surely ALL these avenues should be explored. 

I do not believe you will be comfortable should you use the lethal injection. 


Tom and Patsy Crisp

Hello Mr Varty,
My name is Sybelle Foxcroft, I am a wildilfe biologist and
conservationist. Im the CEO of Cee4life (conservation and environmental
education 4 life www.cee4life.org) and I specialise in big cats and
carnivores mostly, in the wild and captivity.  I wont go on about my
experience etc, however I will provide you with any further information
you may require via email or via phone or via skype.
I am not going to launch into all the reasons you should spare Corbetts
life, I am purely going to address the need to find a new location for
Firstly, I apologise for being so public about this letter, however I have
been trying very hard to contact you and the responses are slow.  I do not
want this to reach you too late, for Corbett.
Ive been corresponding with Daryl Ballour in regard to Corbetts fate.
Through some wonderful tiger and wildlife friends I contacted, I was able
to secure a facility for Corbett, however I have been told by associates
of yours that it would be worse than death if Corbett was put into a cage.
I agree.  The facility which has offered is a sanctuary, not a caged zoo.
Anyway, it seems that you will only consider a replicated environment the
same as what Corbett has now.
So I have been working on that.
There was also a statement made regarding Tiger Canyons being the only
place in the world where these semi-wild tigers have been taught to hunt
etc. I want to inform you that that is not true, and that there have been
a number of tigers re wilded in India.
I know this as I have been in communications with them for quite a while,
and followed these re wildings.  The Tiger Centre in Kahna has been
re-wilding a number of tigers and have been successful, however I have
just found out that there is not enough room for Corbett there.
But, there is another possibility which I urge you to consider, and I am
fully ready to assist and I have contacts within the Indian authorities
which may be able to help this situation move swiftly.
Due to poaching, Sariska National Park lost all of its tigers in 2004,
they have  started the re population of tigers in Sariska. Currently there
is 5 tigers there.   I have just recieved a postive email indicating that
there is more than enough room for Corbett there and their is a
possibility of relocation to Sariska. I am now in contact with Sariska to
discuss this.
I am willing to go to India and monitor Corbett, and protect him,
implement anti-poaching techniques, GPS him, and watch over him.  I know
that I will be able to get the assistance from a vast amount of
professionals and the general public.
All you have to do is say yes, and I will go ahead and make the inroads to
make this happen, to save this boys life.
I understand that Corbett is quite a wild tiger, but that is exactly what
characteristics are needed in a semi-wild tiger to survive in the wild.
He has the spirit of survival.
It would be an utter tragedy to lethally inject this Tiger when he has so
much potential.
My compassion and sympathy to you regarding your attack, I do know
personally what it is like to be attacked by an animal, a tiger. It is
frightening.  But you are alive John, please allow Corbett to remain the
There is no reason to use Corbetts dead body to prove the false Chinese
Traditional Medicine use of Tigers, it is already proven.
Please John, I will help, the world will help. Please contact me via my
email sybelle@cee4life.org, this is a vitally important moment in your
life. Please make the right decision and spare Corbetts life.
This could be something wonderful.
Let us work together and find the way to save him.
The only thing impossible about this is if you say it is.
Never Give Up
Sybelle Foxcroft

Dear Jv

Thinking of you and wishing you a speedy recovery

Trust your heart on this decision!


Stephen & Debbie & Carl Johnson

Hi John
I'm very glad to see you are getting better slowly and are on the road to recovery.
I was bitten by a cheetah last year - he nearly took my right hand off but I was lucky and it took about 6 months to heal. Now a year later my hand is almost 100% again - just not as strong as it was before and a bit clumsy. I know it is nothing like what you had happen to you but I feel I understand. It was my own fault and I do not hold a grudge against him - he is a wild animal after all.
I have two suggestions.
1. What if you were to have him neutered/castrated if you decide not to euthanase him. I realise that you will not be able to breed with him but surely it will make him less aggressive and angry in the long run. If you decide to euthanse him, you still won't be able to breed with him.
2. If you decide that you have to euthanase him you will obviously dart him with a lethal dose of whatever it is that the vets use. I know you are against hunting but, what if you were to sell the opportunity to a professional hunter to pull the trigger of the dart gun and he can pay you for that opportunity. Still have the vet in attendance etc. But then you will have a bit extra to spend on upgrading the camps of the other tigers.
I understand it must be tearing you apart inside having to decide what to do and I'm glad it's not a decision that I have to make. You must make the decision that is right for you and the other tigers and the reserve. As someone said if Corbett does manage to escape or attack someone else, it will be the end of the whole project. 
Do not let all these other people who are think they know best influence that. I'm sure that a lot of them have never even touched a tiger or any wild animal before let alone lived with one and brought them up from a baby. You are trying to provide a sanctuary for these tigers and doing it to best of your knowledge and means.
If there is anything we can help with, please let me know
Hope you get better soon
Shannon Shead

 I have to question this principle of raising these tigers to fear man when I see documentaries with JV entering a den and being so close to the litter ? Playing with the full grown tigers?
I have followed the amazing story from the beginning  and I have understood and respected  the whole idea:  to breed tigers here and then  send them back to their natural (hopefully now safer ) habitats and  countries,  to increase their numbers again. In addition the solar powered fencing was an experiment that could possibly keep humans and tigers apart in their native countries. Did I get it wrong? Corbett is behaving like a tiger should, can’t he be transported to a large tiger reserve/ habitat  elsewhere? Why must he die for being himself- do you really think his dissection will change beliefs?
We are grateful JV was allowed to survive.  Surely Corbett should as well.
Gillian Adams


We all held our breathe when we heard over the radio and on television, that you had been “attacked” by one of your tigers. Undeniably, it was a horrifying experience, even to you who are an expert in the field of tigers. 

Whilst it is without a doubt that prayer power helped you to survive your ordeal, I firmly believe that God has a reason why you did. 

I implore you to please not kill Corbett – he has done no wrong, other than be the majestically instinctive animal that he is. It is beyond comprehension to kill him – please set him free to roam as he should!!!!!  


Colleen Dyman

Hi John and co

I have no idea whether you've made your decision yet or not regarding Corbett's future but I thought I'd weigh in with a couple of thoughts, in case they might be useful perspective. I visited you and the tigers in late December 2010, just before the floods washed the fences away, and was absolutely entranced by Corbett and all of the other tigers. 

First, I'm hugely relieved that you're ok. I know recovery will be long and slow, but it sounds like you're through the worst of it.

Second, I think it would be tragic to put Corbett down. He's in his prime and he's a magnificent specimen. I don't believe he's doing anything that isn't deeply instinctive – and what he needs is a territory he can call his own. If you can't provide that at Tiger Canyons would it be worth sending him to one of the parks in Nepal or India (Chitwan or Ranthambore maybe)? I know that poaching is an issue there; but I'd somehow rather he took that chance than just lost it to lethal injection in SA. I agree he shouldn't go to a zoo – that would be worse than his current close confinement.

And I would be vehemently opposed to doing any research on him to attempt to verify any of these bogus virility or medicinal claims – all that does is legitimize them. Please don't give them any airtime whatsoever.

I wish you wisdom and peace as you ponder these decisions – please remember how many people are closely following what you're doing at Tiger Canyons – and consider the broader implications and ripple effects of your actions.

I cannot understand it. Everytime us humans makes a mistake, nature suffers. If you do not want to keep Corvett contact Jurg from Jukani (google it) outside Mossel bay. Maybe he can help. He has a genuine love for big cats. How dare you even thinking putting that tiger down just because you made a mistake. Rather close down Tiger Canyon if that is the thinking and put all the tigers in a zoo. At least they will be alive.

Dear Jv,
Our thoughts are with you with the heart-rendering decision that you have to make about Corbett.
You're the only person who can make the right decision given your experience with wild animals - you know
them better than anyone else - our reaction would be to give Corbett another chance but this is based on
emotions although we feel great sadness when thinking of what could have happened to you & now the
horrific injuries you sustained have made your recovery long term
We agree that maybe your decision should only be made once you're back at Tiger Canyons & are feeling
stronger but whatever you decide we know that it will be the correct decision & we'll be behind you all the way.
We look forward to hearing what you decide & we wish you a speedy recovery.
Kind regards
Liz & John Cardinelli

Dear JV,
I have seen so many of your documentaries and enjoy your blog and I feel like
I almost know you.  Your efforts in preserving tigers is beyond belief and you
seem to be part of them.  However, I don't think Corbett agrees with you on
this.  He's a magnificent animal yet has a very wild nature that cannot be
trusted, as you well found out.  It's so fortunate that you had someone with
you who could successfully ward him off you and saved your life.

The most unique thing about you is that you understand the animal kingdom and
have so much to contribute, yet you have learned you too are quite vulnerable
in the  scheme of things.  I don't know if you are familiar with what the
Bible says regarding a paradise earth but we have a most wonderful future
ahead of us in which the earth will be returned to the paradise conditions
that God intended in the first place.  You will love this information--your
being the great animal lover you are!!  At Isaiah 11: verses 6-9 it states:
 'And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with
the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young
lion and the wellfed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader
over them.  And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their
young ones will lie down.  And even the lion will eat straw just like the
bull.  And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra;
and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually
put his own hand.  They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy
mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of
Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.'

These are promises that Jehovah God has made that bring us such hope for a
wonderful future.  The animal kingdom will no longer prey upon one another and
we humans will be at peace with them also.  No more killing, no more hunting,
no more devastation.  What a wonderful thought and hope.

You too can be a part of that and your dream will be fulfilled of preserving
the fabulous big cats that you love so much.  I would hope you would want to
know more and can find peace in these thoughts.

I know that Jehovah's Witnesses are somewhere in your area and it would be
such a benefit to you to learn more.  Please just take a few minutes to ask
about this wonderful future awaiting us.

Most sincerely and with huge get well wishes.
Lynne Lucas in Lander, Wyoming, USA

Good afternoon John

A humble suggestion. Have you talked to Four Paws in Bethlehem, Eastern freestate. They also own Lions Rock here. Maybe there is a way with their help. 

Lions Rock (058) 304 1691
Cell: 079 872 4321

Four Paws (058) 303 1651

I felt a little sympathy for JV just for a short while, until I read up on him. He will do anything for sensation.  His project does nothing for wild life. It is his own fault Corbett attacked him and now he is so afraid of that young tiger it is just not true. Now the tiger must suffer. I hope someone does something and that they will close his so called project down. Too many animals have suffered already, all in the name of a good camera shot. He is enriching himself at the cost of animals and how long do you think the public is going to be blind? Putting out Corbett is going to be the biggest mistake he will make. I think that will open a lot of people’s eyes. Rather be the hero and find a nice place for him to run wild. Ag, how pathetic is this guy, he had 5 operations? They just cleaned his wounds!

And since when is 2 broken ribs life threatening?  

If I remember correctly it was Corbett that killed “Shine”.  As much as I don’t like putting a beautiful animal down, this cat cannot stay at Tiger Canyons” he is a threat to Humans and other tigers.   A jail sentence might be a good option so his beauty can be enjoyed by many.

I hope you will be well again soon, best wishes Hazel Fair


I am happy to hear that you are recovering well. 

Since my visit to Tiger Canyons I have been a vocal supporter of your project. However, if Corbett is put down that will all change and I will never visit Tiger Canyons again. There has to be a better alternative.

It seems there must be a way to give Corbett some space to roam and then to check his behaviour.

There must be a way to monitor his movements to determine if he really is as aggressive as it seems at present when he is confined to the boma. 

To put Corbett down will play right into the hands of your detractors who will of course say “ We told you so”. 

I trust you can give this more thought. 

Take care,

Denis Aspden.

Tigers forever.

i have watched your various documentaries with a really heavy feeling over the years. without judgement, what contribution have you been to respecting all wild life ?
i have heard many people talk about you as a man who is only interested in making money off of manufacturing tragic stories for the animals you have captured and do not have the animals best interests at heart. did you engineer this story for fame and ratings too ?
what would it take for you to actually create the change the world requires in preserving these beautiful big cats ?
what if you actually used the gifts that the universe has bestowed upon you FOR all life and changed all this ?
what if your interference and manipulation has come round to teach you a lesson and pay it forward ??





























Tread lightly on the Earth

Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


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Failing Rivers

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Tiger Corbett's Release

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Big Cat Cub Safari

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Rhino Horn Trade - Response

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Raw Power

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Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

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Indian Government -
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Corbett's Freedom

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Tigress Calendar

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The Light Has Gone Out

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The Ethics of
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The Year of the Tiger

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Riding the Tiger

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Runti's Journey

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To intervene or not to intervene -
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Lion - Tiger - Human Communication

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Julie gives birth to 5 tiger cubs

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International Tiger Day

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To all Photographers

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A Shot in Anger

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Tiger Birth
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Elephant Trust