Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bengal Stare

Never mind the fence. To be on the receiving end of a bengal tigress's predatory focus at close range is a thing of fear I had not expected to know in this good life. It wasn't actually me she was interested in, but my six-year-old grandson, Nick, who hid behind me once he caught on to what was happening. The attention of this tiger — taut, twitching, and intent on Nick's every movement — was like that of a domestic cat stalking small prey, but the size and sharply defined stripe of her physique were enough to knock that comparison right out of the park. The enormity of her head alone was breathtaking. And her eyes, good grief, the laser-like focus of her bronze-colored eyes! I could not look away.

We were visiting the Black Pines Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Indiana, a rescue and refuge center for displaced and captive-raised exotic animals. The young intern who was our tour guide remained calm and unbothered as she explained that captive tigers will sometimes focus on children when they can't hunt in the wild. With only three feet and a metal mesh fence (to be fair, it was heavy metal :-) between us and that big cat's stare, I could feel the proverbial adrenalin rush. 

Looking back, I'm astonished by my own sense of protectiveness for Nick in that moment. I remember pressing my arms around him behind my back, honestly feeling prepared and willing to throw myself on top of him if the tiger lunged, however unlikely the possibility. Getting out a camera never once crossed my mind. No matter. The image of those alert eyes trained on small Nick is permanently burned to memory, giving new meaning to the song title, "The Eye of the Tiger." dkm


Jane Robertson said...

What an experience for both of you! I'm sure you had interesting conversations about it afterwards? How does Nick feel about it all now?

dkm said...

I'll ask him and let you know.

Pat Lichen said...

There are YouTube videos that show big cats stalking and even opening their mouths to bite children if they could only reach. I'm always surprised that the parents don't act as you did--despite the lack of real danger. They usually yuk it up as the big cat stalks their child. Yeeks!

dkm said...

Yikes is right! This really happens? I'll look it up on youtube.