If you are like me, your experience of large carnivorous mammals is limited to days of lazy gazing at the zoo, through bars and glass, at the pitiable creatures lounging in their enclosures. Or perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to have had a sighting or two of these animals in their natural habitats. Lions, tigers, and bears! We have seen them many times, mostly as relatively tame captives or on the television screen. The iconic images of these big predators are everywhere and I sometimes find it easy to have lackluster feelings regarding them. For example, clothing with orange and black tiger-stripe designs looks tawdry and dated (as in, 1980’s) to me. I don’t associate that pattern with the wild animal anymore. But what if I had never seen the tiger-stripe pattern before? Wouldn’t I find it beautiful and mysterious? Bears and tigers are so rampant in our collective consciousness that I tend to overlook them and spend more time thinking about oddball animals that don’t get as much attention. But again, wouldn’t the big carnivores fascinate me if I hadn’t been beaten over the head with their images my whole life? Don’t get me wrong— I am interested in charismatic carnivorous megafauna, but it sometimes takes a little more mental energy for me to see them as the exotic and awesome things that they are.
I remind myself that the big mammalian carnivores used to be scarier than shit to the people that lived side-by-side with them. People were routinely killed and eaten by them. Lions, tigers, and bears were real-life monsters, lurking in the bushes and in the darkness beyond the campfire light. Amazingly, these monsters still roam the wilderness today and will kill humans if the mood strikes them. This is a good thing, in my opinion, because it’s depressing to think that the world’s magnificent, terrifying beasts will someday be gone from the wild, existing only in zoos, as attenuated forms of their ferocious selves— or worse, they might be gone altogether, extinct.
I came across a little blurb in National Geographic about a tiger attack that was caught on film. The still images of the tigress as she leaps over the head of an elephant to maul the human rider utterly amazed me. I found the original film online and here it is. Marvel at the seemingly preternatural speed and power of this wonderful animal.
If for some reason the video below won’t play, click here.