This is a distressing situation regarding poaching of tigers, along with the rising tide of rhino and elephant poaching in Africa.
Beauty Comes at a Price
In my most recent newsletter, "The Light Has Gone Out", I informed you that they tigress Shine was killed by the 18 month old male, Corbett. This is only partially correct.
I now have evidence that suggests Shine was darted by poachers attempting to kill or steal her and was possibly killed by Corbett as she recovered from or was under the influence of the unaesthetic.
Another male tiger, Sariska, left Tiger Canyons either dead or alive, on the same night that Shine died and has not been seen again.
For this poaching to have taken place, there must be motive.
Shine was hand-raised and with her gentle nature and incredible beauty, she had huge value to zoos, private dealers and film wranglers. In Hollywood where tigers are used extensively for feature movies and adverts, Shine's value would have been in the region of $500 000 dollars.
I had had many offers from zoos, safari parks and private collectors to sell her. All were refused, as I was determined that she would become a wild tigress. I was keen to research the effect of her white colour on her ability to hunt.
Sariska has less value as he is wild born and raised and is a normal coloured tiger. However, illegal canned tiger hunting is rising in South Africa and he would have value as a trophy.
In Asia the demand for tiger bones, knuckles, skins, claws, teeth, fat, urine and even whiskers, is rising daily. It is possible that the rhino poachers have turned their attention to tigers in South Africa as the Asian buyers for rhino horn would be the same people buying tiger body parts.
In South Africa alone, 150 rhino have been poached for their horn during 2010.
Just two farms away from Tiger Canyons, is one of the largest breeders of white rhino in South Africa. In an attempt to combat the poaching, all the rhinos are dehorned. Rhino horn now fetches more than gold ounce for ounce.
Ironically, I had placed Tiger Canyons in the centre of South Africa where I believed there was no culture of tiger poaching. It seems I was wrong, very wrong!
Today at Tiger Canyons, I discovered a hole in the fence which the poachers cut with wire cutters and then replaced carefully after they left.
The large fenced area where Sariska and Shine were, runs next to an access road. I believe the poachers came in on this road at night and shot the tigers from outside the fence. A dart gun is silent, no noise to attract attention.
Once the tiger dropped from the anaesthetizing drug, hopefully close to the fence, within 4 to 5 minutes, the poachers would cut through the fence and short the 6000 volt electrical wires to neutralize the current. This is a simple maneuver for someone who understands electrical fences. Now using a winch, they could pull the tiger back through the fence and load the tiger onto the back of a truck and then cover it with a tarpaulin.
If they wanted it dead, they would euthanize it if they wanted it alive they would keep it anaesthetized. The operation is carried out in the dead of night.
Not every tiger reacts the same to the immobilizing drug. Some will drop quickly close to where they are darted, others will high-step away and travel some distance before falling. In Shine's case, she was exceptionally big and may have been under dosed with the result that she staggered away from the fence and fell in the heavy bush. Here Corbett found and killed her.
Before the advent of an antidote, we darted many lions at Londolozi. We always sat for several hours with the darted lion as it was recovering from the drug. This was to protect them from other lions and spotted hyena. I have seen a lion that was under dosed killed and eaten by its own pride as it staggered around in a drunken state.
In the early hours of the morning that Shine died, I cross-questioned two men in a truck trespassing on Tiger Canyons. They claimed they were lost. I believe these two men are connected to the death of Shine and the disappearance of Sariska. I regret now I didn't take the registration of the vehicle and search the truck. I am offering a reward of R100 000 for information leading to the arrest of these men.
The Department of Nature Conservation of the Free State and the Philippolis Police Force are investigation this case of poaching. Specialized anti-poaching detectives have been hired to investigate any tigers changing hands at Big Cat establishments throughout South Africa.
Tiger Canyons is installing surveillance cameras on all roads and at strategic points throughout the reserve. It is also bringing in game scouts to maintain a 24 hour security. All tigers are micro-chipped and some have tracking devices implanted in them.
This is the world we live in. Nothing safe, nothing sacred. The rhinos walk around with no horns to ensure their survival, a magnificent tigress, Shine, dies because of her rarity and incredible beauty.
Greed and profit of human beings, the motive.
Tread lightly on the earth