Saturday, September 11, 2010

If Looks Could Kill

[Tiger tiger burning bright,/ Needs a person it can bite…]

One of the lions at the zoo recently had cubs (August 31st), so I decided to pass by the Great Cats area during my walk yesterday to see if there was a sign saying when the little guys would be shown to the public (it’ll probably be a while yet). There was no such sign, but there was a tiger. A tiger that was not, as I thought all the large cats would be on a crisp, cool, sunny morning, basking in the sun. A tiger that was instead restlessly pacing the edge of its moat, an expression of hunger or anger or both on its face. At first I leapt at the opportunity to take true action shots of a tiger, but once it had paused and looked in my direction with its predatory eyes and mouth curled back in a snarl, I was genuinely terrified.

Oh, I still took pictures—tons of them, because it’s hard to get good shots when an animal is forever moving. But I did check the depth of the moat first, just to be safe. It was deep, but not as deep as I’d have liked it to be.

What surprised me was that the various adults with small children who stopped by to see the tiger didn’t seem in the least alarmed by its dangerous lope or frightening visage. Instead, most of these children, who clearly lack all sense of self-preservation, shrieked, “Hey, look at the tiger!” “Hey, tiger!”—or, in one case, “Hey, lion! Lion!” (Well, they can’t all be rocket scientists.) One kid even attempted to roar. The tiger looked back at them with a—how can I put it?—a less than welcoming expression. Actually, I suppose you could argue that it would have welcomed them into its mouth…

One man who was very naïve, very optimistic, or very interested in being childless, held his kid up on the concrete wall to see. Now, admittedly, there’s a railing between that area and the drop into the tiger pit, but it still looked like a lunch offering in the making to me (and probably to the tiger as well).

I spent a long time photographing the tiger, and then made a circuit of the other enclosures (in which lions and a tiger were sleeping) and then returned to take a few more pictures. When I left, the tiger was still pacing, up and down, back and forth, as if it were pursuing something and wouldn’t stop until it found what it was seeking.

And the area around that enclosure must have been shadier than I thought, because when I walked out of the zoo I had a chill that I couldn’t shake for a long time.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

My burning question: can tigers swim? And just how high is the wall that separates the viewers from the tiger? I love your photos (actually, these are truly frightening), but I want to make sure you don't make sacrifices--i.e. YOU-- for your art.

As for the parent offering his child, in the wild there would be the Darwin effect, wouldn't there?

Unknown said...

Those are some great shots! I wonder whose job it is to feed the tigers...yikes! And what an idiot with holding up the kid like that...way to teach the kid not to fear things that you should rightly fear too! *sigh*

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Funny, that was Annie's question, too: "Can tigers swim?" I'm not really sure, although this one didn't attempt to. And the concrete wall is about 20 or 25 feet high, insofar as my poor estimation skills can judge, so I don't think it would have an easy way out. And if it *did* attempt it, I'd just run and let all the foolhardy parents perish.

Noel said...

In the forest of the night? (Is that part of that poem, or am I making that up?)

GORGEOUS photos!!!

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Thanks, Noel! (I *am* proud of 'em.)

-And, yes: Tyger, tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night...

That William Blake; he could really write!

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