Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strange Allure: "Great Cats"

Actually, they’re just big.

I mean, okay, I get it: they’re impressive hunters out in the veldt or deep in the jungle or wherever they live, stalking prey with that slope-backed lope, lunging at gazelle and striking them down with one heavy blow from a huge paw…blah, blah blah… --I’m sorry; I’m snoring already.

Maybe, since I'm allergic to house cats and so have never spent much time with them, I’m primed to be less appreciative of the larger versions of same. Or maybe it’s because in zoos they just sit around all day, every day, lying almost entirely still, with none of the clear contemplative intelligence of apes, the charm of lemurs or otters, or the fascinating foreignness of sea anemones or nautili. They. Just. Sit. There. Looking like big cats. What a thrill.

Of course, as I made a rare trip to the “Great Cats” exhibit in order to photographically document this (lack of) behavior, my argument was proven to be less than all-inclusive. It’s true that the tigers were doing nothing at all. But the lions—brace yourselves—were actually pacing near the moat! That’s right: the male and one female were walking back and forth, slowly. This was so exciting that it had drawn a huge crowd, with people leaning as far as they could over the rail and holding their children up to observe the awe-inspiring sight of large cats walking.

[She's moving so fast that she's blurred!
-At a shutter speed of 60]

It’s a failing in me, I’m sure. But I just—I don’t get it. And maybe I would mind less if the same people got equally excited about watching an octopus, which first of all moves more than these felines (hell, I’m willing to bet that the dead Pacific octopus moved more than most of those cats) and second of all can fit through any space larger than its beak (we’re talking sliding through keyholes, here). How is that less cool than seeing a lioness yawn?

Now, if the lioness started oozing through a space the size of a keyhole, I’d be right there at that railing. Or maybe, depending on where she was going, I’d be far, far away.

[This lioness is engaging in more typical "Great Cat" behavior:
Look--she's going to get up!--No. No, she's not.]

1 comment:

Barbara Martin said...

These cats have no need to move as they are well fed with nothing to occupy their time with. Perhaps if the zoo put an antelope or natural prey in their enclosures, this would liven them up a bit. Or are the zoo keepers worried they might become prey if they assisted in making the big cats' lives more interesting. Or it might be too much for the onlookers at the sight of such a spectacle.

I'm allergic to cats too, but I love them. Especially the big cats: the Tigers.

The lionness in the last photo is very alert: she's watching something and you can see the calculation in her eyes.

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