Photo courtesy Flickr
Yesterday the media handed me this post on a platter. Even the Peacock network thought it was a Disney moment when a zoo lion tried to eat an infant. The baby's zebra-striped onesie that made this an animal behavior story was only one factor in the behavior.
We’re supposed to be afraid of lions. Lions are supposed to be afraid of us. I like to think that had there been a high school football player or two in the crowd they would have charged the animal to wave it away from the baby. As it was, the crowd behaved like the rest of the herd of zebras, writing off the victim and going about their business. The lion learned that our species doesn't protect its young, and the baby learned that when it's looking into the jaws of a large carnivore, it's safe but on its own.
Googling zoo lion attack, I found a nearly identical story from last year. The soundtrack was the amused chuckle of the camera woman. In each case, the lion pawed fruitlessly but with disarmingly kittenish rectitude at the glass separating it from its intended victim.
The Fifties saw the publication of two fascinating books about hunting big game. Jim Corbett’s Man Eaters of Kumaon details his experience in India dispatching problem cats. John Hunter’s Hunter covers Africa. As I recall, Corbett is repeatedly invited to villages that are being terrorized, and the impression I retain long after closing the covers of the book is that stunned observation is part of the experience of seeing a victim attacked.
The glass let us laugh it off, but the glass isn’t always there. We live in lion country, and unlike Old World man-eaters, our lions are no longer trained to fear human beings by hunters who use dogs . They attack when they’re strong and healthy. I’ve been stalked by a cougar, an uncle helped a cyclist fight off an attack in a national park, and the in-house archaeologist mentioned at the end of the story that he’d been visiting a Montana indian reservation when a cougar attacked and ate a child.
So clear the brush from around the house, folks, and check out David Quammen’s Monster of God.