Thursday, 27 October 2011

Earning his stripes – can a farm in Africa save the tiger from extinction?

Tigers in Asia face many human-related threats. As more and more people encroach on the areas where tigers live, there are increasing conflicts between man and beast, as tigers take livestock and kill humans that venture too far from their commodities. Humans fight back with guns and poison, often killing more than they anticipated. 

Added to this is the growing demand for tiger body parts in the Asian medicinal markets. Almost every part of a tiger is a sought after in China and other countries that still practice traditional medicine. Because of the numerous human threats, it is estimated that less than 3000 tigers remain in the wild in Asia.

So, what are the Asian states doing to protect this iconic species? The answer saddens conservationists around the world, as very little is being done to conserve the species or the habitat in which it lives. It often comes down to financial decisions, which in these recessionary times are not easy to make. Luckily, there is a place where the tiger can still roam wild, and not fear persecution from man. But this place is not in India, China or even Asia. It’s in Africa.

John Varty earned a reputation as conservation maverick many decades ago. His practices go against everything we’re taught about conserving large animals, yet his success rate is often unrivalled. John (or JV as he is affectionately known) decided that someone needed to save the largest cat on the planet, and created ‘Tiger Canyons’, a wildlife refuge in the Karoo, South Africa. Here, tigers run wild, fending for themselves and living off the land – just like they would in Asia, just with an African twist. 

I had the privilege of visiting this spectacular property and witness firsthand the wonderful work that JV is doing for these animals. There are currently 14 tigers on the property, and there are plans in the pipeline to extend the fences and the population of striped cats on site. With the success rate JV has had, I can see why there is a need to expand!

It is not hard to see why JV fell in love with these majestic creatures, and one can only wonder why the Asian states do not invest more in creating safe havens for these essential predators. Through JV’s vision, tigers could be brought back from the brink of extinction, by applying his principles and frameworks to tiger conservations around the world.

Who knows, you may soon find a wild tiger captive breeding site in an area near you!

Gregg Brill
Senior researcher & writer at green24

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