Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And Then You Remember

I happened to stop by the lion enclosure today just as the cubs were let out, and I was lucky enough to grab a prime spot for viewing and photographing the cubs—all of whom, in a fine mood, gamboled about like crazy. I also spoke briefly with one of the other camera-toting zoo visitors as we watched the cubs’ antics; he commented on the astonishingly loud snarl emitted by one of the cubs, a noise that seemed too big to have been produced by such a (relatively) small body. “Amazing, isn’t it?” I agreed. “I catch myself thinking, ‘Oh, they’re so cute and little and fuzzy…’”

“…And then you remember they’re lions,” he finished.


This is not to say that the cubs aren’t capable of being completely adorable and/or acting absurd—here are just a couple of examples:

But it’s worth remembering that the winsome expression I ooh and aah over is on the face of an animal who’s licking its lips after gnawing on the meaty bone of some large creature.

And even the silliest-looking sibling antics, like this:

—Are just practice for more coordinated attacks, like these:

Which in turn would become, if these cubs grew up in the wild, the kinds of attacks that would bring down wildebeest.

The cubs are certainly growing up; they defend their food much more violently now:

And, while they can still be intimidated by their mother (see below),

They will fight even her if she tries to take their food:

It’s not that they’re less fun to watch now, or that I like them less than I would an herbivorous species. In truth, I somewhat cherish the chill that runs through me as I see the cubs behaving in a particularly predatory manner: it helps remind me that they’re not like us—and they’re not our pets, either. Even as they cavort in this snow-dotted enclosure across the ocean from their native habitat, even born and raised in captivity as they are, they’re nobody’s stuffed toys; they’re as wild as you can get.

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


Anca said...

I saw Nature this past Sunday, on PBS, and saw the cutest little cubs being killed by the new male while the mother watched, frozen. I'm glad these ones will survive, although I understand the problematics of captive lives.

mainly mongoose (Lynda) said...

Fantastic photos. I especially like the cub boxing Mum. I guess it's not that long ago that these professional killers dined on us.

biobabbler said...

Great shots and super apt sentiment.

I remember years ago staring at a male lion at the San Diego Zoo with my best friend. The lion roared. We decided, rational beings that we were, since our cave-man brains reacted by inwardly screaming in a panic, that we'd then leave. The lion was going nowhere, but we STILL thought "Okay, then, guess I'll just move along..." Freaked out. =) And reassured ourselves that there were many people then behind us whom we could outrun. =) SERIOUS creatures!

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Thank you all for your kind comments on the photos and your insightful comments on wild animals and their habits of eating us (and each other). Yes, I think it's worth remembering that they *could* eat us, if they had to--and could injure us, if they felt threatened, and that even as we admire captive animals, we grant them the respect of being watchful and/or terrified, depending on the circumstances. (I would have gotten away from that roaring lion, too!)

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