Living with Tigers

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Living with Tigers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Living with Tigers is a 2003 documentary about tigers in Africa. It aired on Discovery.

The sequel to Living with Tigers is Tiger Man of Africa on the National Geographic Channel.[1]

This documentary features a Bengal tiger re-wilding project started by John Varty in 2000. This project involves training captive-bred Bengal tiger cubs by their human trainers so that the tigers can regain their predatory instincts. Once they prove that they can sustain themselves in the wild, they would be released into the wilderness of Africa to fend for themselves. Their trainers, John Varty and Dave Salmoni (big-cat trainer and zoologist), have to teach them how to stalk, to hunt, and, most importantly, to associate hunting with food.It is claimed that two Bengal tigers have already succeeded in re-wilding, and two more tigers are currently undergoing their re-wilding training. This project is featured by The Discovery Channel as a documentary, Living With Tigers. It was voted one of the best Discovery Channel documentaries in 2003.

A strong criticism about this project is with the chosen cubs. Experts state that the four tigers (Ron, Julie, Seatao and Shadow) involved in the re-wilding project are not purebred Bengal tigers and should not be used for breeding. The four tigers are not recorded in the Bengal tiger studbook and should not be deemed as purebredBengal tigers. Many tigers in the world’s zoos are genetically impure,and there is no reason to suppose these four are not among them.[2] The 1997 International Tiger Studbook lists the current global captive population of Bengal tigers at 210 tigers. All of the studbook-registered captive population is maintained in Indian zoos, except for one female Bengal tiger in North America.[3] It is important to note that Ron and Julie (two of the tigers) were bred in the USA and hand-raised at Bowmanville Zoo in Canada,[4] while Seatow and Shadow are two tigers bred in South Africa.[5]

The tigers in the Tiger Canyons Project have recently been confirmed to be crossbred Siberian/Bengal tigers. Tigers that are not genetically pure are not allowed to be released into the wild and will not be able to participate in the tiger Species Survival Plan, which aims to breed genetically pure tiger specimens and individuals.[6]In short, these tigers do not have any genetic value.[6]The documentary has been alleged to be a fraud.[7] One source claims that the tigers are unable to hunt, and the film crew chased the prey up against the fence and into the path of the tigers just for the sake of dramatic footage. Cory Meacham, a US-based environmental journalist mentioned that “the film has about as much to do with tiger conservation as a Disney cartoon.” An additional assertion is that the tigers have not been released and still reside in a small enclosure under constant watch and with frequent human contact. Some conservationists fear the public’s being misled by false representation of footage.[8]
John Varty, in an attempt to cover up his continual breeding of tigers with no genetic value and the lack of genetic purity, suggested Andrew Kitchener’s theory of Tiger Subspecies classification but was later debunk. It was a outdated argument, suggested in 1999 by animal researcher Andrew Kitchener. He proposed a theory to re-classify Tiger Subspecies based on Geographic location instead of DNA molecular studies, this theory will eventually be overturned and seen as a wrong step in the world of conservation. He argued that the historical range of some Tiger subspecies overlapped, and using that basis, he assumed that these tigers must be genetically identical. He wanted to re-classify Tigers into 3 subspecies, the Sunda Island tigers which consist of all island tigers, the Mainland Tigers which consists of all Tiger subspecies ranging in China, Southern Asia and India and the Caspian Tiger.[9] The argument was recorded in detailed and published in Valmik Thapar’s book, Tiger – The Ultimate Guide.

This argument was later overthrown by DNA Molecular studies, done in the year 2004. Kitchener’s argument was flawed as it was based solely on geographical location, and not based on any DNA testing. The DNA research is a collaboration of the world’s leading tiger experts, involving Melvin Sunquist, Ullas K Karanth, and Dale Miquelle. DNA testing was based on the latest genetic research based on blood, skin, hair, and/or skin biopsies of 134 tigers which known geographic origins.
The study concludes that there are six subspecies of modern tigers alive today as we know today, the (1) Amur tiger; (2) northern Indochinese tiger; (3) South China tiger; (4) Malayan tiger; (5) Sumatran tiger; and (6) Bengal tiger P. t. tigris. Hence, according to the latest genetic studies, there are more than three subspecies of tiger. Therefore in conclusion, according to the latest genetic studies, more than three subspecies of tigers exist. Andrew Kitchner later accepted the research and went on to admitting that his theory was flawed.[10]

Even though the argument has been disproved, and Kitchener himself admitted it’s flaws. However there are concerns that some zoos and private organisations will use the theory as an excuse to breed tigers with no genetic record and value. Conservationists fear that private organisations will continue breeding tigers which are not purebred and to use the flawed theory to support their cause and hence getting an opportunity to breed mixed-bred tigers disguising as a conservation act.[11]



  1. ^ Tiger Man of Africa
  2. ^ Releasing Captive Tigers – South Africa
  3. ^ Save The Tiger Fund | Bengal Tiger
  4. ^ Ron and Julie, Living with Tigers, Tiger Canyons, John Varty
  5. ^ Seatao and Shadow, Tiger Canyons, John Varty
  6. ^ a b Purrrfect Breed?
  7. ^
  8. ^

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