Birth of wild tiger cubs at Tiger Canyon marks rewilding conservation success

A photo taken of 2 tigers lying down taking a nap

One of the only two wild white tigresses left in the world has recently given birth to three cubs at Tiger Canyon, a private nature reserve whose grand purpose is to contribute to global efforts to save critically endangered big cats like the Asian tiger and African cheetah from extinction.

Located two hours by car from Bloemfontein Airport, and sitting on the edges of the pristine wilderness of the Vanderkloof Dam, Tiger Canyon is a dream for photographic safaris – and possibly the best place in the world to capture images of the critically endangered Asian tiger roaming free amid 6 100 hectares of golden, open grasslands and rocky ridges.

A win for wild tiger conservation

Safely hidden away in a remote den site with mother TiBo (short for Tiger Bomb, named by an American guest in 2012), the cubs were first spotted by guide Greg McCall-Peat and he was able to capture rare footage of the tiny cubs feeding.

What makes the birth of these cubs so special is the fact that TiBo is a white tigress that was born wild at Tiger Canyon in 2010. While white tigers are not an uncommon sight in captivity, Tiger Canyon is home to the only two free-roaming wild white tigers in the world.

Due to a rare genetic mutation, white tigers are one of nature’s wonders. In order for a white tiger cub to be born, both its mother and father must carry a specific recessive gene.

“The birth of any cubs signals the survival of a species,” says Rodney Drew, managing director of Tiger Canyon. “When cubs are ‘wild born and wild raised’ from captive-born parents, the birth is an important part of rewilding, as each generation is wilder than the last and contributes to strengthening the natural wild instincts needed by the species to survive in a wild ecosystem.”

Tigers in Africa – why?

While the idea of tigers roaming wild and free on the wide Karoo plains may seem strange to some, the Tiger Canyon team has spent the last 20 years pioneering an ex-situ conservation project and sustainable model of what the next generation of game reserves may look like: one that is dedicated to the conservation of endangered animals, no matter where their normal home range is. As the wild tiger’s once expansive original home range continues to shrink and become ever more fragmented, it is crucial to explore alternative conservation strategies.

“We have seen that the captive-bred tigers introduced to the reserve, as well as their wild-born offspring, are able to cope well with African parasites and diseases, and adjust easily to hunting African prey species,” says Drew. “In turn, we’ve proven that tigers do not pose any abnormal threat to local biodiversity. Africa has what it takes to shoulder a more prominent role in big cat conservation because, more than any other continent, we have the land, expertise and proven rewilding programmes.”

Accommodation

Tiger Canyon offers a very private and exclusive setting, with only three luxury bedrooms for up to six guests at Tigress Julie Lodge. Boasting spectacular views, the lodge is perched on the edge of a canyon, setting the scene for a restorative break from the world. The lodge immerses guests in the tranquility and warm, down-to-earth hospitality of the Karoo and Free State. A reflection of its partnership with nature, the lodge is solar-powered and environmentally friendly. Tiger Canyon can be booked for exclusive use and is ideal for a family or small group of friends who want to enjoy the ultimate private and exclusive safari experience.

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