Our Story

Tiger Canyon is a groundbreaking conservation project dedicated to preserving the critically endangered Bengal Tiger. Set against the unique backdrop of the Great Karoo in the Free State Province of South Africa, Tiger Canyon is home to a growing population of rewilded tigers.

In the late 1990s, renowned conservationist John Varty (JV) was concerned about the diminishing population of wild tigers in Asia. In 2000, JV bought two zoo-born tiger cubs and set in motion the ex-situ conservation project that is today Tiger Canyon.

Ron and Julie, the two founding cubs, were successfully rewilded by JV. With the later introduction of two new tigers, Shadow and Seatao, the first wild cubs were born at Tiger Canyon in 2008. The tigers have adapted remarkably to the terrain, blending in seamlessly with the Karoo landscape. Camouflaging perfectly in the long grass and rocky outcrops, the tigers have proven to be lethal predators.

Inspired by the project, Rodney and Lorna Drew purchased adjoining land in order to expand the reserve. In 2013, a cheetah territory was established and four cheetah were introduced to Tiger Canyon, increasing the scope of the sanctuary to include this endangered South African big cat.

In 2014, two new tigers were introduced to Tiger Canyon ensuring a diverse and varied genetic line. Towards the end of 2017, wild-born cubs once again roamed the land.

Despite challenges, Tiger Canyon continues to grow from strength to strength, providing a beacon of hope in the fight for the tiger’s survival in the wild.

The Plight of the Tiger

According to the WWF, the number of wild tigers has halved in the last 20 years — current population numbers are estimated between 3 500 and 3 800 tigers worldwide. Although this decline has stabilised recently, tigers remain critically endangered on the ICUN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red list.

Roughly 70% of wild tigers live in India where they compete daily with a growing human population. Tigers require large territories and frequently clash with expanding towns and cities. With approximately 456 people per square kilometre and no fences around their national parks, the tiger’s natural habitat is declining slowly but surely.

In contrast, the Free State Province in South Africa contains only 21 people per square kilometre. Therefore, the tiger does not need to compete with humans for territory. At Tiger Canyon, the tigers are able to live in safety protected by big electric fences.

At Tiger Canyon we aim to support global efforts to conserve this majestic big cat by expanding our land and growing our population of wild tigers. By protecting the tiger, the local ecosystem and a great number of indigenous animals are conserved.

Our Vision

At Tiger Canyon, our goal is to develop a sanctuary for the endangered big cats of the world, particularly the critically endangered Bengal tiger. We believe that we have built an effective conservation model that benefits both humans and nature. It is our hope that this model will inspire and be replicated by other countries and conservation projects, because when you partner with Mother Nature, She rewards you greatly.

Our understanding of the interconnectedness of all living creatures compels us to strive for a way to behold and protect every animal within a free-flowing environment. We cannot accept that such magnificent big cats are under threat to the point of extinction.

We believe that the relationship between humans and animals living in close proximity need not be destructive: by making the tiger accessible to guests, photographers and filmmakers, Tiger Canyon aims to raise awareness of the tiger’s plight, ensuring that future generations can continue to behold this awe-inspiring cat roaming free in the wild.

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