For Hari

So, a few words about this tiger thing from the weekend, just because it’s still on my mind, and because it reminded me of so many other incidents where people know better but go ahead being ignorant, anyway.

Or maybe they are actually ignorant. It all looks the same to me now. I’d lose at a game called Ignorant or Just An Asshole, I suspect.

Anyway, in case you haven’t heard, on Saturday, a woman jumped a fence into a tiger enclosure at the Toronto Zoo so she could retrieve her hat. It was a beautiful day and the zoo was crowded, so there were plenty of onlookers to view and judge her, including swarms of young children. One guy called her out, saying she was a moron and a disgrace to everyone else’s kids. Another woman stepped in quickly to break up the fight, and a cell phone video of the incident went viral and was quickly picked up by news outlets around the globe. You can view it here.

(I used that link because it contains the least amount of incorrect information – does no one get the facts before they write a story anymore?)

Now, there was a second fence, but if the tiger is upset enough, there is no guarantee that it’s enough to keep him from getting to her. There was no zoo staff member immediately on hand, so the woman took it upon herself to go get her own hat, rather than wait on assistance. Everyone can – and does – judge for themselves the intelligence level of that decision. Despite the signs and bylaws and the like, of course. I mean, most of our laws and rules are really just in place to protect stupid people from themselves, and to protect others from stupid people.

Neither common sense nor common decency were on display at the zoo in those moments.

Watch the tiger. His name is Hari (well, his full name is not something I can say, let alone spell), and he’s one of the handsomest tigers I know. He is usually pretty chill, and likes stalking his keepers from the bushes whenever they want to move him to a different enclosure. He gives slow blinks, for pete’s sake! He’s a beautiful, amazing cat.

And in this video, he is upset.

His space has been violated by a stranger…the equivalent of me inviting myself into that woman’s home. Maybe be standing over her bed when she wakes up in the morning. How safe would she feel? I mean, I’m just standing there, not doing anything. What’s the big deal? Maybe she’d invite me to stay; offer me a treat.

More likely, she’d scream and call the police. For at least trespassing, unless there is also a charge for just being a creeper.

Is what she did to Hari any different? She displayed zero respect for him, zero respect for his space, and zero concern for his safety. That she also didn’t care much for her own safety is irrelevant – the world is over-populated as it is. I don’t care for her safety, either, really. But I do care for his. Hari likes to pace along the side of his enclosure, especially before or after food, or if he knows there is a zoo staff member under the bridge. But the way he is jumping and bounding from side to side in the video clip – he is clearly agitated and upset and probably some combination of anger, fear and frustration. There is a trespasser and he can’t do anything about it. He can’t stop her.

My heart breaks seeing him like that. And I hate that woman for causing him to feel anything other than safe and happy and cared for. She has no right to do that, not to Hari, and not to anyone else.

Same with those jerk kids who decided Humphrey was lonely, so they hopped the fence and went over to stick their fingers into his enclosure, video-selfie-ing the whole thing.

Same with people who throw garbage and/or food into any of the animal enclosures.

Same with the guy near the gorillas with his GoPro on the end of a selfie stick and hung it out over the glass so he could get a better angle…which caused Nassir to run to his mom and baby sister, part in fear, part as a show of protection…and freaked the whole troop out because they didn’t know what it was.

Same with the…I have no words bad enough to describe them…”people” who go around shooting cats with pellet guns and leaving them to die.

I hate anyone who deliberately causes another animal to feel fear or panic or anger just because they can. Close on their heels, I hate anyone who does it unintentionally…and then keeps on doing it.

As for this woman – she upset our big, beautiful boy. And while I’m sure she knows now that she’s an idiot and has seen her fool self on the news the past few days, I’m not sure she feels any remorse. That bothers me. The lack of respect bothers me.

But I guess what bothers me most is that it’ll happen again. Over and over. Respect needs to be taught, and we’re just not learning, apparently.

What was that line in The Jungle Book? About how sending Mowgli to the village was a bad idea because they’ll ruin him.

They’ll make a man out of him.”


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