National Geographic Photo of the Day

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tigers - the world over - in the news

Around Christmas I'd come across a certain story on the Internet which made me feel quite sad actually. In case you didn't know, there was an incident at the San Francisco Zoo concerning three young men and a tiger. Tatiana was a Siberian Tiger at the SF zoo who clearly had some anger issues. But those issues were nothing compared to these three young men. What these three were up to no one clearly knows. Amritpal "Paul" Dhaliwal and Kulbir Dhaliwal even told their companion's (Carlos Sousa Jr) dad that he wasn't with them when they had either arrived at or were on their way to the zoo. Somehow, these men managed to attract the tiger's attention (by what means, that I leave to your own imagination) and had the tiger gunning for their throats. She (Tatiana) leaped up the 12 and a half feet wall and mauled Sousa to death while the Dhaliwal brothers ran to a nearby cafe. The tiger however was not easily put off, she followed them to the cafe and continued her attack only to be shot and killed by police officers arriving on the scene. The Dhaliwal brothers have been all mum about the incident and have as yet not cooperated with the police or given their account of the attack.

Now, the loss of human life is regrettable, but it is hard to believe that the tiger made that kind of a leap without any sort of taunting or instigation. Giving evidence to that is a bloody footprint which was found on a railing in an area between the gate and the edge of the moat. Plus, they also found a number of sticks and pinecones inside the exhibit in the moat where they couldn't have landed naturally.

Closer home, a farmer in Shaanxi province of China took a photo that seemed to show a South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), a species that is reported to have merely about 20-30 living members in captivity. This species is the original species from which all other tiger subspecies supposedly evolved. A sighting of this species hasn't been made since 1964. Mao Zedong's extermination campaigns nearly rendered them extinct. Surprisingly he called them 'pests'.

Talking about pests over in Sri Lanka, the country seems to have another kind of Tiger problem. One that involves the LTTE, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Peace accords and gunfire are exchanged back and forth between the Tamil Tigers and LTTE. Its sad that people can't learn to get along without asking for a separate country for themselves wherever they go. And that too in the name of language. The Sri Lankan Government has however gone all out by saying that it will now scrap its truce with the LTTE. Considering all that's been happening over there, I'm tempted to go "Yeah Right, like there ever was a truce in the first place."

Coming back to the San Francisco Zoo attack, we tend to vilify the tiger and make heroes out of the ones attacked. But considering all that happened I feel sorry for the tiger. No doubt, this very tiger had bitten the flesh off a zoo keeper's arm a year back. Granted, the zoo takes a major part of the blame for not having raised the enclosure wall to the required height. But the tiger was doing just what she was bred to do....... be a tiger. When angry they most certainly will attack. If you put your finger in a wall socket and get an electric shock for your trouble when you're just a little kid, well that's not really your fault. But when you're a young adult who goes up to the largest tiger species and taunts it and asks for trouble, you shouldn't cry when it kills you. No surprise there, I'd just say survival of the fittest, the stupid ones die.

There are less than 1000 Siberian tigers (accounting for both captive AND wild individuals) in the world. Thanks to those idiots and the SF zoo, there's one less now. I mourn the loss of a rare, beautiful and critically endangered animal.

This week seems to be one for tigers in the news, some for the wrong reasons, some for the right ones!


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