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John Varty
Born John Varty
(1950-11-27) 27 November 1950 (age 67)[1]
Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation Film maker, conservationist
Spouse(s) Gillian van Houten (TV news anchor) (m. 1995)[2]
Children 3: Daughter Savannah and twin boys, Sean and Tao.[1]
John Varty and Tigress Julie at Tiger Canyons, South Africa

John Varty (born 27 November 1950) is a South African wildlife filmmaker[3] who has made more than 30 documentaries and one feature film. Varty is also leading a controversial project which aims to create a free-ranging, self-sustaining tiger population outside of Asia.[4]


Early life

John Varty attended Parktown Boys' High School in Johannesburg. As a child, John learned about hunting[5] on the family game farm near the Kruger National Park.

After his father, Charles, died, John and his brother, Dave Varty, terminated the hunting activities and converted it into a game reserve in 1973.[6] They renamed it Londolozi, which is the Zulu word for "protector of living things". Since then it has become one of the top resorts in the world and was included in Travel and Leisure's world's best for 4 of the last 5 years.[7][8]

Film career

John made several documentaries that were widely distributed: Living with Tigers, Shingalana,[9] Jamu, the Orphaned Leopard.[10] Swift and silent won an American Cable TV award in 1993[11] and The Silent Hunter won The New York Gold Award.[12]

In 2011, John Varty starred in Leopard Queen, a documentary about a leopard he has filmed for 17 years.[13]

He also wrote, produced and starred in Running Wild a feature film starring Brooke Shields.[14]

Tiger re-wilding project

In 2000, John started a Bengal tiger re-wilding project near Philippolis in the Free State.[15] Starting with captive bred tigers, the aim is to establish a wild tiger population outside of Asia. In 2003, the progress was documented in a The Discovery Channel production called Living with Tigers. In 2011, National Geographic made a second documentary called Tiger Man of Africa.[16]

The project has received controversy after accusations by their investors and conservationists of manipulating the behaviour of the tigers for the purpose of a film production, Living with Tigers, with the tigers believed to be unable to hunt.[17][18][19] Stuart Bray, who had originally invested a large sum of money in the project, claimed that he and his wife, Li Quan, watched the film crew "[chase] the prey up against the fence and into the path of the tigers just for the sake of dramatic footage."[17][18][19] Quan and Bray also accused them of financial mismanagement after a legal audit uncovered that he had borrowed R5.7-million of the funds for extraneous and personal expenses.[20] Quan and Bray subsequently established the Save China's Tigers Laohu Valley Reserve, also near Philippolis.

Moreover, scientists have also established that the tigers are not genetically pure, which would imply that the project has no conservation value.[21]

On 29 March 2012 John Varty was critically injured when one of his tigers attacked him on his farm near Philippolis. He suffered multiple injures and puncture wounds all over his body.[22] He spent approximately one month in hospital.[23]

In January 2014 KIA South Africa released a TV commercial, Tiger in Africa, with John Varty's footage shot at Tiger Canyons [24]


  • Living with Tigers
  • A Secret Life
  • Ambush in Paradise
  • Brothers in Arms
  • Cycle of the Seasons
  • Defining Moments
  • Horn and Claw
  • Hunters
  • Hyaena the Great Opportunist
  • Jamu the Orphaned Leopard
  • Londolozi's Africa
  • Perfect Mothers
  • Perfect Predators
  • Return of the Kings
  • River Dinosaur
  • Savage Instinct
  • Savannah Cats
  • Sense and Scentability
  • Shingalana
  • Super Hunts Super Hunters
  • Survival on the Savannah
  • Swift and Silent
  • The Brotherhood
  • The Mating Game
  • The Silent Hunter
  • The Super Predators
  • The Tracker
  • Troubled Waters
  • Wet and Wild


  • Nine Lives (2011) [25]
  • In the Jaws of the Tiger (2013) [26]

Other articles/books

  • Varty, Boyd. Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home, Random House (2014).


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Nine Lives, author John Varty". Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Tiger Canyons - to create a tiger population outside Asia". 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Nelson Mandela's view on Londolozi
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Summary
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Tiger man of Africa
  16. ^ "Tiger Man of Africa". Fox News. 8 April 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "Vartys 'misused' tiger funds". news24. 18 March 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Discovery Film Proclaimed A Fraud; Broadcaster to be Sued". Wildlife Film News 56. February 2004. Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "Vartys 'misused' tiger funds". news24. 18 March 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  20. ^ Arrick, A., Mckinney, K. (2007) Purrrfect Breed?, 13 August 2007 online Archived 11 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Video on YouTube
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links