We haven’t been on an official game safari yet—I mean the kind where you are in a safari vehicle and the animals are roaming as they please. But around the area where we’re living, they have mini safaris (similar to a few in the states) where the game reserve is a little more open, the herbivores running free and the carnivores in more natural enclosures (think zoo but with a little bit happier animals in a little more natural setting.) The other difference is that the carnivores are literally within touching distance if you are foolish enough to reach past the railing to the wire fence. (No. I didn’t reach out. I’m adventurous but I’m not crazy. C’mon!)
We explored one yesterday, and I’ll give you more photos later, but I wanted to share with you Kurt’s encounter with a young tiger near the petting zoo.
We were just dawdling along, killing time before our safari by wandering the children’s petting zoo. There were baby bunnies and chickens, goats and sheep. You know…the “usual.”
Then we saw him in a large enclosure. When he saw us walking toward him he got up from his spot in the sunshine and went in the far corner to his shaded enclosure where humans can’t come near. I figured it would be just another zoo experience: depressed animals fed up with humans staring at them all day, just wanting to be left alone.
We stood for a minute and watched him lying in his distant enclosure, watching us.
“Doesn’t he seem to be in stalking mode?” I asked Kurt, noting the tiger’s flattened ears and flexed, crouched haunches. I thought he looked exactly like our housecat when he was about to attack our feet.
Kurt looked at him for a moment before moving on to read the signage, “Yeah, I guess so, kind of. I dunno.”
I stayed staring at the beautiful cat, wishing he would walk to the front of the enclosure where I stood. I leaned on the railing, which was a mere 3-4 feet from the wire enclosure. One could easily step under it or reach over it. One wouldn’t, of course. But it’s strange to realize the level of safety is quite different from such enclosures in the states.
Having shifted my focus from the tiger to the enclosure, I saw that Kurt had drifted to the far end, the most distance away from the tiger. He was heading to check out another area. A blur caught my eye and before I could get my camera up, let alone think to holler at Kurt, I realized the tiger was in a full charge toward Kurt. Kurt realized just as I did that the cat was running full speed toward him. It launched itself at the fence before landing easily back on its feet.
Kurt and I stood, staring, hearts pounding. Kurt admitted to a sudden urge to hit the bathroom, and thanked me for such swift reaction in warning him of an impending tiger attack. “At least now I’ll know what to expect when we’re on a real safari” he laughed, “You’ll be standing and watching me get pummeled.”
“There won’t be any tigers on safari” I countered, as though that made either of us feel better.
The cat, meanwhile, began to rub vigorously against the fence and purr and make soft churtling noises. It clearly wanted to play or be petted. We began to take turns walking to either end of the enclosure to watch the tiger, who was only about a year old, mock-stock us. It would crouch low, sometimes behind a log or lump of dirt, watching us with ears flattened, then as we turned to walk away it would charge. If we turned around too quickly, instead of jumping at the fence it would pull up short as if to say “What? I wasn’t doing anything.” Then it would roll onto its back and make its little churtling noises like it wanted its belly rubbed or its ears scratched.
Honestly, it was heartbreaking because it was easy to tell it wanted to play and also easy to know that tigers can’t play with humans (without an enclosure between) without the possibility of a fatal cuddling.
It was tough to get a good charge on video, because he didn’t like when you were facing him, and it’s kind of difficult to film something behind your back. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this short video of one of this tiger’s mock charges. I wish I had gotten the first one filmed, with the distance charge from the end of the enclosure, full jump and Kurt’s pee-pants reaction. 😉
Tomorrow…a video of the former circus lion who still likes to stir up her audience with some growls.