Posted by: salamandercandy | November 18, 2006

Burning bright indeed!

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.



  1. I was in Malaysia a few weeks ago, deep in the wild interior of Endau-Rompin, I set up remote cameras on the game trails, and in one spot I lingered a little too long and darkness started to fall.

    I hiked back to camp, without a guide, on a trail full of tiger tracks, in near darkness. I was vulnerable prey and my senses were highly attuned. It was a humbling experience to be at the mercy of the jungle. All I could do was hope that my trail was not picked up by a predator, and that my sense of fear did not project itself into the forest around me.

    I have felt like this in grizzly bear territory – it is a reminder that we are not the “king of the jungle”, and that their are creatures in the world who would be happy to turn us into a meal.

  2. Wow, you guys get around a lot. Hiking after dark in tiger country. I saw something on the news about India’s tigers, that at least one of the sanctuaries has zero tigers left due to incessant poaching. They interviewed a tiger researcher in India, who is radical about saving the tigers. He said, “Do you think they’d save a forest for a deer? No! When the tigers are gone, there will be no hope of saving anything.” Tiger skins, bones, body parts are highly prized everywhere from China to Tibet, and yet the biggest sanctuary in India may have only 200 Tigers left alive. One woman who became an undercover agent to uncover poaching rings said Tigers are magnificent because they are solitary. Any creature who is solitary cannot survive unless it is absolute perfection. No disabled or dysfunctional or in any way weakened tigers survive, she argued, because they are solitary and can depend only on themselves, unlike even lions. So every wild tiger is absolute perfection. The power of the tiger is revered and with reverence brings death from mankind.

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