The Princess Diana of Tigers
(Tigress Julie – September 1999 to 5th December 2013)
“I want to stand on canyon caves
When Julie brings her cubs to play
Future generations going back
From where they came
So much hope and so much faith
In you and me
Tigers are fighting back
They are running free”
From the Song
On the 5th of December 2013, Tigress Julie passed away at Tiger Canyons in South Africa. At the age of 14 years old, Julie’s kidneys had ceased to function. All the injuries Julie sustained in the fight with Shadow had healed.
Tigress Julie was born in the USA in September 1999. As a young cub, Julie and her brother Ron moved to Bowmanville Zoo in Canada.
I would like to thank Michael and Wendy Hackenberger, who gave me two priceless gifts, Ron and Julie. These two tigers became the founding tigers of the ex-situ conservation experiment, which started at Tiger Canyons thirteen years ago.
Tigress Julie was one of the most widely traveled tigers in the history of tiger conservation. Born in the USA, she moved to Canada and then flew to South Africa, landing at Oliver Tambo Airport. From there she went to the North West Province and then on to Phinda Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal. From Phinda, she flew to Hunters Moon in the Northern Cape and then transferred across the Van der Kloof Lake into the Free State Province to Tiger Canyons.
With the help of Dave Salmoni and Gillian van Houten, I set about “teaching” Julie to hunt. During Julie’s lifetime I did over 300 hunts with her on foot. Many of these were successful. During her life, Tigress Julie caught and killed 14 different species of prey, including catching large barbel in the Van der Kloof Lake.
On one occasion, she caught an adult blue wildebeest weighing 280 kilograms. Although the wildebeest pounded her into the rocks, after a 40 minute struggle, Julie subdued the wildebeest and throttled it.
In one hunt she ran down an ostrich at a speed in excess of 40mph.
In an extraordinary experiment, Julie allowed me to introduce the lion cub Savannah into her first litter (Savannah would later prove that the hunting style of lions and tigers is genetically coded).
In a huge thunderstorm, while searching for a cub in the tall grass, Julie moved 30 metres out of her way to inform me that she had already found the cub (Julie chuffed me through her nostrils while holding the drenched cub in her jaws).
Tigress Julie abandoned her second litter of cubs (The reasons why she abandoned them are still not clear). These cubs, Sunderban, Zaria and Shine were hand raised. Walking every day with the cubs and swimming in lakes and rivers, remains one of the greatest years of my life.
Tigress Julie’s third litter was a litter of 5 of which 4 survived. These cubs, Mahindra, Ussuri, Indira and Tibo (Tibo is a white tigress), have all dispersed and become extremely successful wild tigers.
In November of 2013, Julie became a grandmother when Ussuri her daughter, gave birth to cubs.
In 2012, at the age of 13 years, Julie cleared a 3.2 metre fence, an incredible athletic feat. After killing 14 sheep, I walked Julie back 3 kilometers to Tiger Canyons using my belt as a leash (Julie had not been on a leash for 8 years).
During the devastating court case which dragged on for 11 years, it was Julie I went to for support and inspiration. Sitting in silence with her, not filming, not photographing, not speaking, were some of the most calming moments of my life.
The lies and deceit from the humans in the court case, contrasted vividly with Julie’s honesty and directness. I vowed that from this time on, I would simplify my life and live by the laws of nature, rather than the laws of people.
In an incredible act of “interspecies communication”, Julie implored me to help her into a cave to avoid an attack from Shadow. (This is told in Newsletter no. 83)
Tigress Julie is known throughout the world. She was the star of the film “Living with Tigers” which showed in 165 countries and the film “Tiger Man of Africa” which broadcast to 180 countries worldwide.
Conservatively, a half a million pictures were taken of this incredible tigress, earning her the nickname “Princess Diana”.
Tigress Julie’s life story is being written in a book called “Icon Cats”, to be published in 2014.
Julie’s legacy is strong. She is survived by Shy Boy and Tiger Boy from her first litter (Shy Boy and Tiger Boy were Savannah the lioness’s litter mates).
From her second litter, Sunderban and Zaria survive (Shine was killed in an attempted theft for a canned tiger hunt. See Newsletter No. 38).
From Julie’s third litter, Mahindra, Indira, Tibo and Ussuri all survive (Ussuri has produced her first litter of cubs).
There is not much else to say except that the relationship I had with Tigress Julie was profound. It changed and enriched my life enormously. It took me to places and in directions I could never have imagined. Some greater force gifted Julie to me and the privilege of knowing her was life changing.
Her passing has affected me deeply and I will take a long time to recover. It is fitting that Tigress Julie died on the same day as Nelson Mandela. Both were giants, Mandiba in the political world, Tigress Julie in the fight to save endangered species.
Julie was the ultimate ambassador for her species. If you would like to make a donation to the “Savannah Fund” which has been renamed the “Tigress Julie Fund”, below are the details.
“DETAILS FOR FUND”
Seven Falls Trading (Pty) Ltd
First National Bank – Trompsburg
Branch Code: 230932
Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ
IBAN: 230932 62094732693
First National Bank
32 Church Street
Love Light and Peace