Don’t Play with Your Food

Inspired by Shelley’s recent posts on mean humans and zoos, I thought I’d post another entry about my recent visit to the Denver zoo and an incident that happened while I was there.

It happened so fast that I couldn’t capture the whole series of events with my camera. Apparently a wild duck, accustomed to the mellow company of captive flamingos, swans and ducks, flew into the tiger cage. At first everything seemed fine as he strutted around the cage eating bits of food here and there.

Suddenly, though, the tiger swatted the duck and batted it around in the air. The silly duck was quickly mashed to an unrecognizable mush of feathers and flesh.

The reaction of viewers was varied. Some parents rushed their children out of view horrified at seeing the true nature of a tiger when they were expecting a zoo tiger. Other parents, apparently less observant, urged their children to watch the tiger playing with its “toy,? while the children, at least those who had watched the whole scene, sat watching in open-mouthed amazement. I suspect that “don’t play with your food? would take on a whole new meaning for them.

Me, I was reminded of Blake’s

The Tiger
TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

I’m not sure I could really summarize my feelings as I walked away from the tiger’s cage, but there was a strange satisfaction in knowing that for once I’d really seen the true nature of a tiger while at the zoo, a feeling I seldom experience here where people come to see the “real? thing.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Play with Your Food

  1. Oh, Blake, yes. Recently, I was thinking about the deaths of Grizzly Man (Timothy Treadwell) and Crocodile Man (Steve Irwin) and it seemed to me they both had forgotten something about nature, the violence of it. I remember Irwin, holding his baby son in front of the crocodile and later saying, “What people don’t understand is that I was in complete control.” That’s dangerous thinking, and your entry emphasizes that.

  2. That’s a very good photo, Loren. Mine have been so dull lately, I’m thinking of giving up photography.

    Question: would you rather see the animals free, even at the risk of extinction? That’s one I have a hard time answering.

  3. Like you I don’t really have an answer to that question, Shelley.

    In Denver’s Zoo I was struck by the contrast between a “historical” exhibit of monkeys where they were caged in an extremely small space versus an island where the monkeys had a relatively free run of the island.

    I wouldn’t want to be a tiger caged in a small cell with nothing to do but pace back and forth for hours on end.

  4. it is clear the Treadwell and many, many others fail(ed) to remember that a bear (tiger, duck) is just that; the thing itself is enough.

What do you think?