Thursday, October 20, 2011


Have you heard this? It is a terrible, horrifying tragedy. When I first saw this photo I thought it was from some African country, not Ohio! I have heard many lamenting the loss of these animals. Comments like "Animals shouldn't pay for people's mistakes." or "When will an animal's life be more valuable than a human's life?" (Yes, really!) The general feelings are that the tigers are endangered and should not have been killed.

I get it. You like animals. You don't want to see them wiped off the face of the earth. You don't want them mistreated. "We think, they don't. Can't we do better?", etc.

Have you ever been face to face with a tiger?

About 6 years ago I took my 4 little ones to the Nuernberg Zoo in Nuernberg, Germany. The tiger exhibit was wonderful. There was a mother tiger with 2 babies outside in the tiger habitat. They were playing; wrestling, swimming, chasing each other. The mother would play with them and seemed to scold them when they got carried away. It was enchanting! (There are photos and video of another litter of tiger babies at the zoo link above.)

After watching them for some time we went into the tiger house next to the outdoor area. The building was  fairly small. There were several cages around the edge of the room with bars on our side and closed doors on the far side. Only one cage contained a tiger. It was a male, probably the father of those cute, playful cubs outside with their mother.

He was HUGE! I had never seen a real tiger before, especially not so close. He was only about 3 feet away, stalking back and forth, glaring at us through the bars. His eyes never left us. I stood frozen, temporarily mesmerized by his intense eyes and powerful presence. Next to me were my children. They had never seemed so small and vulnerable. I saw the tiger's gaze fall on them. His eyes seemed to convey his thoughts "Ah, those small ones look tender! They would be easy to catch!"

I held the children close as the tiger made eye contact with me. He seemed to say "You're lucky these bars are here. I would not hesitate to eat you all!" I was chilled to my core by his obvious attention. Even now I think that is the only time I have ever felt pure, true fear.

I also felt respect, deep respect, for that animal. I felt as though I had gained an audience with a powerful king and had escaped with my life and the lives of my children. I imagined the bars were only for my benefit; that the tiger could have killed us if he wanted to but he had granted us a pardon. I have never looked at  tigers the same way since.

Thinking of this experience, I feel pity for the erosion of this majestic beast's reputation. Today's tigers are   


Tony the Tiger

Have these familiar, friendly, even cuddly personifications replaced our repect for the deadly power of these animals?

As tragic as it is that there are now a few less of these amazing creatures, I know what they are capable of. I know the danger they could pose in an unprepared community. I know that they deserve our respect. Those men in Ohio know this too. They did not kill those animals out of blood-thirsty hatred or wreckless sport. They did it out of respectful fear for the lives of those they serve. They did it out of duty and compassion for human life. Before you judge, visit a zoo. Stand face to face with the king and imagine there are no bars. I have no doubt they made the best choice.

1 comment:

Kayli Sue said...

I was saddened by this story but not because they were put down. I believe that part was unavoidable. I saw an interveiw and they said they had tried to sedate one tiger but the dart just made it mad and charge at police. I was saddened by their owner's lack of respect. For the lives of his animals and for human life as well. I can only imagine what he was thinking. Maybe he had good intentions, I don't know (I really hope so) but this loss could have been avoided. I am just so glad that no one was seriously hurt. I heard one person hit a lion with their car. Don't hear about that happening much in the US! Least of all Ohio.