The World as a Petting Zoo

Over the years in my travels, I have been perplexed at the behavior of some people towards wildlife. Is it a naivete? Lack of respect for what they are capable of doing?

Ignorance? Arrogance?

All of the above?

My first lesson was back in 1983, when I went to Kenya. There, you can sign up for a tour (one place in the world where I recommend not wandering around on your own) – the tour guides will take you to these vast game preserves – 100s of thousands of acres – and the vans have a pop-up roof.



That lioness you see in the upper left corner – that was no telephoto lens. Our van came up about 10′ from her. She had hunted the previous evening, from the looks of her stomach she was successful, and she did not seem bothered by our presence.

The tourists stand up, the cameras are clicking, and this woman next to me says, “Why don’t you throw something at her so she’ll look our way?

After my time in Kenya I came to view lions as 400 lb house cats. To be respected, of course. Years ago, when the National Geographic had specials on network TV, they had a special on cats as a species.

Two takeaway points I remember from that program after all these decades:

1.  As a species, cats have more in common with each other – about 90% of the behaviors, than any other species. 

2. A common house cat, left in the wild as a feral cat, will behave as a miniature lion.

A friend of mine just got back from Africa and I told him about a place that allows you to walk with a lion.


My friend walking with a lion a few weeks ago

So, this may sound the opposite of what I am saying? The difference is, you are given strict rules about how you interact with these animals.

First, I am sure that they have been well fed 🙂

Second – you never walk in front of the lion. Do they think you are prey? I don’t know. But the rule given by those who know these creatures is good enough for me.

You respect that animal.

In contrast to this, look at this idiot.

At what point should one cease being sympathetic and just laugh at some of these people?



Or, as one Lexican posted to the Facebook group yesterday, how about these guys “fishing”?

Watching this. I was reminded of something Lex said in a recent post, when he took the Kat out fishing:

Up and out with the youngest to Lake Miramar for the fishing that was in it, well aware that 1400 on a sunny Sunday afternoon is not planning for success but hoping to demonstrate to the Kat that “fishing” is not the same as “catching” but can still be fun.

Looks like the grenade people didn’t get the memo.

I had to laugh.

Was that wrong?

You see that tent above in the upper right corner?

That was in the Maasai Mara game preserve. It was actually fairly civilized, with a concrete slab, and the “bathroom” at the rear with 2 55 gallon drums over a fire for hot water. For your shower.

After dinner at the dining hall, we were led by guards with automatic weapons to these tents, and told under no circumstances to leave the tent until morning.

What is the most dangerous animal in Africa? I had always heard that the Cape Buffalo got that honor, for their nasty tempers and unpredictability. Others have subsequently told me it is the hippopotamus. Both have nasty tempers and would just as soon kill you as look at you.

Anyway at night the guards would retire and the buffalo would “roam” into the camp.

About 0200 my tent-mate woke me up and said “Bill! Bill! Wake up! There’s a rhinoceros right outside! ” We could hear something eating the grass.

I get up, pull back the tent flap from the window, and 6′ from us is a Cape Buffalo just grazing.

I went back to bed, figuring if the thing wanted to kill me there wasn’t a thing I could do about it anyway.

So anyway we get back home, have a meeting to compare pictures, and I told someone this story. To which she asked, “Why didn’t you take a picture of him?

And I’m thinking of a flash going off in the darkness, a picture with a huge horn and brown eye, and it could have been called “Bill’s last picture“.

Anyway the guard told us that a few weeks before us, a couple of women from the Bay Area decided to take a midnight stroll there and they found them the next morning, stomped and gored.

I haven’t even mentioned Alaska.

I took prints of that trip 15 years ago, and they are in the closet somewhere. I’ll have to scan them.

There were the tourists who, on the Denali Highway, saw a moose with her calf and had to get out of the cars, run up and take pictures.

Two of my most vivid memories for Alaska are flying in a bush plane around Mt McKinley (now  called, I believe, Mt Denali) , and going to Brooks Camp.

McKinley is actually the world’s tallest mountain, rising 20,000 feet or so from nearly sea level while Everest at 29,000 feet starts at 15,000 feet or so.

Brooks Camp, I believe, is accessible only by float plane (the way we came in), and offers one a unique opportunity of seeing the Alaskan Brown Bears feeding on salmon.

The first thing when you arrive is to go to the little theater (a log cabin) and view a video on “bear etiquette”.

You are actually walking on trails that the bears use, but they are more interested in the salmon than you.

Make lots of noise if you see one.

Get out of their way, slowly.

I’d call it a lifetime experience. I think what Alaskans call brown bears are what we call grizzlies.

While I was there, some Swiss tourists saw these bears swimming under their footbridge and they are all running up the bridge to take pictures of them literally a few feet away.

The rangers are screaming at them to get off the bridge and the tourists are pretending that they “no habla“.

I think what this all comes down to is lack of respect and arrogance. Probably anthropomorphizing the animals and thinking they are all just your fuzzy friends.

In Alaska, Timothy Treadwell was a lesson. Thought all of the bears were his friends, until he found one that wasn’t. Werner Herzog’s  documentary on Treadwell, Grizzly Man, was chilling.  At the beginning of the movie he is visiting the pathologist who examined Treadwell.

Or what was left of him.

Think of the opening scene in Jaws.

Respect and a bit of humility.


update 06/20/19: I have given this some more thought and I believe a lack of respect – and while I want to say a fear for what they can do – it is more of a reverence and acknowledgement for what they can do. Some people lack that appreciation. Or that knowledge is not in their memory.

Or perhaps they are simply fools. 

On the other hand you don’t see divers trying to cozy up to Great White sharks – they get the respect – it is a question I don’t believe that I have fully answered as to the “why” some act as they do towards dangerous animals. 

I think anthropomorphizing – attributing human characteristics to an animal –  is a factor, too. 

As long as I am here typing: A bit more on Kenya. 

I thought it was a magical place – once out on a highway one would see giraffes off in the distance – and lions. When I was leaving and at the Nairobi airport, I asked a local woman what they did if they saw a lion laying down in the middle of the road.

“We honk our horns!” was her answer. Which isn’t to say that they don’t respect this “king of the beasts”. I don’t think they get out of their cars and try to approach the lion or “scare” it off. 

I think a reverence and respect for what they can do should be at the top of one’s list. 

If anyone followed the link to the “Walk With The Lions” webpage, the organizers assure you that there are 6 people with you, including a guard with a high powered rifle, who walk with you. 

While on the Maasi Mara, in the back of my head, among the great cats, I wondered who was the predominate – the lion or the leopard? One day I got my answer, when we saw a leopard running towards a tree.

At the base of the tree, we heard a deep, blood chilling roar that would stand the hair on your neck, and faster than you could realize what happened that leopard was 20′ up that tree. 

He had disturbed a lion.

As to the guards carrying the rifles, if that lion wanted, one swipe of a paw would break your neck, and when the jaws closed on you…

Quicker than you can think. 

Wouldn’t be any time for a guard to react. I think that rifle is pretty much a useless appendage. 

That’s the kind of respect I refer to. 

He is the king of the jungle. 




Filed under Funny Stuff, Good Stuff

2 responses to “The World as a Petting Zoo

  1. Pingback: The Quest for the Perfect Selfie | The Lexicans

  2. Pingback: Two Recent Road Trips | The Lexicans

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