WATCH: Wild Free State tigers square off

Male Bengal tiger, Bird. Photo: Pierce van Heerden

Bloemfontein Courant visited Tiger Canyon near Philippolis where our reporters spotted two male Bengal tigers, Bird and Khumba, squaring off with each other.

Field Ranger Connor Thompson explained that the highly territorial animals often compete for dominance even though they are separated by a fence.

“They are not greeting each other, there is no chuffing, and they do not even acknowledge each other. So Bird will always keep his back to the other male because he is essentially trying to tempt him to attack,” said Thompson.

“The reaction from both of them is basically the same. They have their heads down with shoulders brought up and sizing each other up. This is typical big cat behaviour,” the ranger explained as he drove just behind Bird, the larger of the cats.

Tiger Canyon just outside of the small town of Philippolis is the only place outside of Asia where wild tigers are found. Although the open veld of the Free State is the last place you would think to be perfect for the majestic animal, the tigers are thriving at the conservation park.

The exotic cats are separated by electric fencing and the park is divided by about 32 km of wire on the tightly monitored reservation. Bird is the largest of the tigers weighing about 300 kg while Khumba, is about 260 kg.

Read more about Tiger Canyon in the next issue of Courant. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele