A hundred years ago, 100,000 tigers roamed their native range in Asia. There were nine subspecies of tigers (Bengal, Siberian, Indochinese, South Chinese, Caspian, Malayan, Sumatran, Bali and Javan).
But today the wild tiger population is around 3,200 individuals – with only 1,000 being breeding females. Three subspecies are extinct, one is extinct in the wild, and the remaining five are endangered. Wild tigers are now void in about 93% of their historic range and those do exist struggle for survival within small, isolated pockets of forest.
Is there hope for this iconic big cat?
The dramatic decline of the species is a result from poaching, illegal trade, habitat loss and availability of prey. In their first few months of life, tiger cubs have a mortality rate as high as fifty percent. Less than 10% of tiger hunts end successfully.
South African conservationist and filmmaker John Varty has been around big cats for 40 years. And he believes he was put on this planet to save tigers. Varty is working to establish a free-ranging, self-sustaining tiger population outside of its native habitat – a controversial mission.
Varty’s tigers live on a rugged, 90,000-acre South African reserve he calls “Tiger Canyons.” In the beginning, he had just two zoo-born young tigers. And now? Over fifteen.
Find out about his controversial tiger conservation efforts and journey behind-the-scenes at Tiger Canyons where Varty films the tigers mating, birthing and hunting…
Watch Tiger Man of Africa on Friday, April 8th, at 10 PM et/pt on the National Geographic Channel!