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Lethal Injection or Freedom?
Corbett (right) with siblings, Sariska and Panna (picture Sunette)
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.
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
Therefore I am no stranger to these tough
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
Corbett will be darted and then killed by
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
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
Read Daryl Balfour's excellent response to
JV and Julie (picture Daryl Balfour)
I have just become aware of your thoughts
- and I pray it is not a decision fait accompli - of
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
You definitely know better than me...but this doesnt