Although tigers are not native to South Africa, a large population resides there.
At no point in history have tigers ever lived in Africa, although lions were once widespread across Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite being bigger and heavier than lions, tigers never populated the continent, yet today they can be found in the wild in reserves near Philippolis in the Free State. Why? Because we introduced them there.
Although the concept may seem unusual, the idea is not without purpose. In 2000, John Varty started a Bengal tiger “re-wilding” project in Tiger Canyons near Philippolis. His goal? To establish a wild population of Bengal tigers outside of Asia. Unfortunately, John Varty’s tigers are hybrid species, which are not endangered by any means, and the conservation value of his project has come under fire.
However, in 2002, a group of 17 abandoned sheep farms in a nearby area were converted into a nature reserve known as the Laohu Valley Reserve.
Here, critically endangered, captive-born South China tigers were also re-wilded with the intent of being released back into the wild in China.
Video of the tigers by Varty:
Initially, John Varty had been involved in this project as well, but he mishandled the project’s funds and subsequently lost his position of power. Today, the reserve is managed by Save China’s Tigers. Within the reserve, the tigers reside on overgrazed and fenced-off land, and thus, they are unable to negatively affect the native South African ecosystem.
Watch the first footage of the rare tigers hunting an antelope:
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