February 27, 2012
The Tigress: Pictures of an arresting encounter that made me think
You cannot miss him. Whenever he appears, be it in a movie or a documentary, the music changes. It becomes compelling, a bit mysterious but mighty all the same. Perhaps there is a drum solo and then – silence. Only the sound of the wind and some moving leaves are left. Everything else makes room. The stage is set. Then he comes. The king. The king of the jungle. The great tiger.
Of all big cats, the tiger is the most fascinating. Neither the lion nor the leopard or any of the others combines strength, menace, beauty and grace in such perfection. It is not very astonishing that in Asian literature and history the tiger takes the place that the lion has in our western culture. He is the animal royal. But of all big cats, the tiger is also the most endangered. Or perhaps it is not “but”, perhaps it is “because”. Perhaps it is because the tiger is so impressive, so extraordinary that people make him subject to their hunt, not only in history, but still today.
What we see today is only a poor rest of the variety and amount of tigers we once knew. Only 7 % of what once roamed most of Asia is left. Of the 9 subspecies of tigers three are already extinct, three are very close, and all are severely endangered.
If our attitude does not change soon, for our grandchildren tigers will be mentioned in the same breath as the mammoth and the dinosaur – only a relic of distant dreams.
On the other hand, there are signs of hope. People are becoming more aware of the treasures of our planet – and of what it means if we lose them. So, when some years ago in a broad survey “Animal Planet” asked about 50,000 people in many countries about their favorite animal, it was neither the intelligent and helpful dolphin nor the faithful dog that came on top. It was the tiger. No doubt, this animal – so far above us in terms of strength and dangerousness, but then so vulnerable as well – has now become subject to our admiration and affection.
Some time ago I went on a field day with one of my classes. Like most children, my 5th graders are fascinated by animals and so we decided to visit a zoo nearby. I had taken my camera with me, and strolling through the zoo I encountered one of those impressive animals, an awesome tigress. She was majestic but also really amiable. Believe it or not: When I whispered “Can’t you please turn a bit so that I can get a better picture of you?” – she really did! Actually she acted quite like a model. So I was able to take some really nice shots which show her beauty and casual strength. You are invited to share them with me. Enjoy!
“Few problems are less recognized, but more important than the accelerating disappearance of the earth’s biological resources. In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it is perched.”
Bonus: Read a comprehensive article on tigers on Wikipedia and savor a video featuring breathtaking pictures of camera-trapped tigers (H/T to my friend Matthias Rascher, who dug that up). Here is also a list of important fictional tigers and, if you want to visit the most famous of all, Shere Khan of Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”, read it online or download it for free here. And at last William Blake’s superb poem “The Tyger”, from which I have taken my headline for this post, and with which I will close, written and illustrated by his own hand.
May 9, 2011
A Photo Essay
Do you know this familiar scene? A person walks alone at a beach. Everything is peaceful. She hears the soft and low wooshing of the waves on the sand, smells the salty air, feels a gentle, warm breeze. From time to time she bends down to pick something up that has caught her eye: a special shaped shell maybe, or an interesting stone…and, if she is really lucky, a shimmering fragment of mother of pearl or a little piece of golden glowing amber.
Not very long ago, this person was me. I spent a holiday at a beach at Majorca. While enjoying long walks in silence (due to rather cool weather there were not many other people there) my camera was my companion. The things I saw were beautiful. Yes. But not all of them were what I expected. This is a record of the treasures I found:
The beach where I walked, was a clean beach. And still there was so much to find that shouldn´t be there. That made me think and research a bit. The pollution of our oceans is incredible. Certainly we all know the disturbing pictures of fish, strangled in nets. In fact we are almost used to them by now. Even more disturbing are other stories that can be heard – if you´ll listen.
How about this one: Did you know the world´s biggest garbage dumb is twice the size of Texas? Asking where it is? In the Pacific ocean. It´s the great Pacific Trash Vortex (read the Wikipedia article for more information and watch an impressive video here.)
Nobody can really say how this will influence us – but we know that there have been a lot of victims already. We know about the fish, and we know about the seabirds. For years, cruel pictures of seabirds killed by trash that they fed on, have been circling the net, especially the Photo Galleries of Chris Jordan.
Much more disturbing however are the hints we get from another direction…Not only is the trash eaten by animals, the substances it contains are set free while the plastic pieces break up into smaller and smaller pieces, and absorbed by all the organisms living in the ocean. These substances are poisonous and they may also influence and affect the genetic makeup of sealife. And that´s where it gets rather creepy – because here the whole matter backfires, as we depend on it as a food source. There won´t be a way for us to chicken out – we will have to deal with this issue.
Standing at that beach, I admired the beauty of those finds, a strange, haunting, deathly beauty, as I knew. I also knew that I couldn´t change or save the world. But I wanted to share this with you. The odd fascination I felt, the feelings of disturbance – and my pictures.
“People protect what they love.” (Jacques Cousteau)