The Rules of Life and Space - Part 2

May 16, 2002

The day before my daughter's graduation exercises we decided to set out on a family "adventure' to the local wild animal park.

Spouse has been to the wild animal park in San Diego and suggested that if it was anything like that, it would be worth the visit.

After shelling out eighty bucks for the five of us I said something to the effect that it was a bit pricey and I hoped the visit would be worth the cost.

We wandered through exhibits of snakes and lizards and monkeys and quickly came upon the habitat of Samara, a 600 lb Bengali tiger.

It is estimated that at one time over 100,000 of these magnificent creatures roamed the wilds of India and Bangladesh. Loss of habitat the encroachment of man and poaching for use in traditional Chinese medicine have reduced their numbers to below 5,000 in the wild.

And there she was, stretched out lazily in the shade of a tree, just inside the fence.

What an opportunity for a great picture.

Yea, but there is the problem with the fence in the way.

Look how close she is.

I looked at the tiger, and I judged the distance between the waist-high security barrier between me and the fence. I knew the lense of my digital camera would easily fit through one of the openings in the chain link.

The barrier fence is probably 4 feet high but being tall, I decided I could just lean on over. The digital camera is an Olympus 2020 zoom which has just the right sized lens for fitting through a chain link fence. You can see the tiger in the background, who wants tiger photos with a chain link in front?

(At the time it was considered a "prosumer" camera with a whopping 3 megapx capacity).

Nevertheless, even at the low resolution of 3mp, the absence of a fence makes for a better image..

female bengali tiger Samara - Out of Africa Wild Animal Park, AZ

"Just what the Hell are you doing?"

As you can see from the image at the top of this piece, my youngest got the adult Bengali Tiger to stretch waaaaay out for a chunk of raw meat. Since he is 6 feet tall that means the tiger has a stretched out length of something like 9 feet. All of a sudden the overhang on the chain link fence starts to make some sense.

You've heard of the "flight or fight" response?

Like when you are charged by a wild animal, you get this instant desire to run like hell?

I swear, I had no clue that tiger could reach that high, or jump that quickly. (note: the feeding above took place about an hour later) What happened was that she jumped, stretched, and rotated 90 degrees in less than the blink of an eye and before I knew what had happened the chain link fence was bulging out with 600 lbs of tiger pushing against it.

Everyone screamed, and I also think no one knew I could jump back that quickly.

So now that last image makes a little more sense. Looks to me like she is thinking something like "Keep out of my space buddy, or next time you're going to be lunch."

Everyone laughed when it was all said and done, and the kids told me "that alone was worth the price of admission."

So what did I learn?

I don't know. I suppose that you take risks in life, some calculated, some not.

Also, sometimes you need management around to keep people out of spaces where they don't belong.

I think a good rule is to keep yourself and your lenses on the people side of the fence.

Caged or not, I'm glad I have the image and that this tiger is not being served up as some Chinese herbal remedy for greater sexual powers.

P.S. Many of the animals in this facility have been "rescued" such as Samara, found in the back of a stolen car at something like 9 weeks of age.