Tiger Canyon: Africa’s Bengal tiger conservation project

Posted by Imogen Searra on 15 January 2019

With cheetah, leopard and lion roaming its plains, South Africa is the place to go to find big cat game. Now, thanks to the Tiger Canyon reserve in the Karoo, and the efforts of John Varty, the country officially has a tiger population of 18 Bengal tigers and three white tigers.

Tiger Canyon is a conservation effort to preserve the remaining Bengal tiger species, albeit outside its natural Asian habitat. The tiger is the biggest cat species on Earth and six subspecies of tigers remain in existence: the Bengal, Amur, South China, Sumatran, Indochinese, and Malayan tigers.

Tiger Canyon is the brainchild of conservationist John Varty, who in 2000 purchased two zoo-born tiger cubs, prompted by his concern with the diminished Bengal tiger species. The aim of the project was to rewild the two cubs, Julie and Ron, and proved successful. Two years later, two other tigers, Shadow and Seatao, were introduced to Tiger Canyon, and in 2008 the first wild tiger cubs in South Africa were born.

Inspired by the efforts of Tiger Canyon, Rodney and Lorna Drew purchased the farm next door so that the parameters of the canyon could expand. In 2013, plans to create a cheetah territory were realised and four of these magnificent yet unfortunately endangered cats were introduced into the area. There are currently six cheetah living there.

Both the cheetah and tiger populations are thriving in their Karoo environment. In 2014, two more tigers were brought into Tiger Canyon so as to diversify the tiger bloodline.

In order to experience the incredible work and effort of John Varty, one can visit and even stay in Tiger Canyon. The Tigress Julie Lodge is open for visitors and is located on the edge of the canyon, with exquisite views.

If you are looking to go for a game drive or spend the night in the canyon, you have a number of booking options. The experience you will have at the reserve is guaranteed to be unlike any other safari you have ever been on. For booking information, visit the website here.

Picture source: Unsplash

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