Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tiger Tales

When the eldest was about three and change, we were in England for a visit. The weather was, well, English like, so we were chilled and it was drizzly and rather blech-like. That didn't stop us, of course, as the folks I was with, including my own offspring, were of fine British stock. Blech-like weather stops nothing.

We went to a zoo. It wasn't that stereotypical American zoo experience, of course. It was more a mash-up between an American zoo and what I imagine a roadside animal attraction on Route 66 looks like.

For all you PETA folks out there, I stand solidly in solidarity with you. I am not a zoo person. I am always depressed following a zoo visit. I swallow this sadness like a huge glob of grubs and do not convey it to the children. [All right, you're right, then, I'm not in solidarity with you because I am perpetuating the existence of zoos with my frequent visits with the kids. And I do not rail to my children against the audacity of man to imprison these animals. But inside, dear PETA, I'm with you.]

The Eldest was fascinated by the tiger. It was in a rectangular enclosure, not too wide but rather long. And Eldest was amazed. He would look eye-to-eye at this magnificent creature, and he would walk the length of the enclosure. The tiger walked right next to him, eyeing him all the time. Back and forth the two went. Eldest was awed by his ability to have the tiger follow a kind of Simon-says routine. "Look, Mom-mom, look at me and the tiger," he'd say. He was thrilled that the tiger was following him.

I was utterly chilled by the tiger stalking my little boy. I mean, down to the core, I felt true fear. I hated it. I hated watching that tiger hunting my son. I hated my brain's whirring, taking me down the path of imagining that tiger lose. Imagining that tiger ripping my little boy to shreds.

It's been nearly eight years since that tiger sent chills down my spine. Whenever we go to a zoo, I can recall that. I hate watching the tigers. Alas, the kids adore seeing them.

We were supposed to go to the zoo today to see the reindeer and the seasonal skating rink. It was to be our Thursday outing. While we usually go to the Oakland Zoo, we were going to the San Francisco one because of their holiday special.

The zoo is closed, of course, following the escape of one of the two Siberian tigers. Tatiana got out, mauled one person to death and mauled two others before being shot dead by the police.

"Look at the nice tiger, Mom-mom."


Rebecca said...


I know the British zoos and the icky fear of which you speak. And after this post, I suspect it will be a good long time before I experience either again...

Linda said...

Extremely scary, isn't it? I am still quite curious as to how Tatiana got out of her environment - as I'm sure are the zookeepers and everyone else!

Keeping It Real said...

I read that story about the tiger mauling in the local paper today. Sends a chill up my knickers (and I'm not British).

I loathe the zoo, myself. It's merely a summer distraction for the kids. The animals in the local zoo seem to be obscured enough as to avoid a tragedy similar to that in San Fran, but you never know. A zoo employee was attacked here earlier this year when he left a cage door unlocked during routine work. You just never know.

Jeni said...

Whether the animals in a zoo be in cages with bars and mesh and whatever else they can find to try to keep them in there or if it is a place that is advertised as the "animals in a natural-like setting" I think all too often people forget these animals are still wild that can and will try to attack if at all possible. I don't know what prompted the tiger at the SF zoo to break free and to attack/maul those people but I don't see how the episode can be "blamed" on the tiger either -if you follow my train of thought there.

Melissa said...

My younger kid is totally in love with all of the big cats and wants to be a zoo vet. But for him it's not a "childhood fantansy"; he's actually doing reseasearch on what it will take to make it happen.

I haven't told him about what happened yet, and I'm really not sure how to handle it. But he already knows how dangerous the cats are. *shudder*

Sian said...

There is something sanitised about zoo animals but a tiger on the loose would only be terrifying. Can't blame the tiger for hunting, can't blame the police for shooting it either. I wonder who they will blame?

D... said...

That is such a tragic story. It's really scary how that happened.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

This morning I had a talk with LittleBird about respecting animals. Regardless of where the fault lies, I firmly believe those men taunted Tatiana. I have used this story to explain to my dd how we do not throw rocks at animals or they will "Raaaar" us. A cleaned up version, of course, but it is never too early to start teaching your children respect for ALL living things. And how to have good behaviour.

I am intrigued by your tiger in England story. I will have to email you my one experience of feeling "hunted". There is truly no fear greater in the pit of your soul than thinking you are prey to something larger than yourself.

Jillie Bean (AKA Bubba's Sis) said...

Now THAT sends chills down my spine.

I heard the boys that were attacked were taunting the tiger. Still, it shouldn't have been able to get out.


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