Breaking news: Thank God for Twitter because it just brought me this horrifying video I never would have seen if not for endless streams of tweets and HuffPo Weird News. Usually the only kind of news I like is weird, but I’m not sure this quite qualifies.
The video is short but not sweet. It’s actually rather disturbing – not because the lioness at the Oregon Zoo literally attempts to bite the head off the little baby who is ostensibly safe sitting in front of the glass-walled cage – but because the the family filming the home video is unfazed and actually laughing while the lioness claws at the glass trying to devour their child.
To be fair to the lioness, the toddler is dressed in a black and white striped hooded sweatshirt which could be confusing for a wild animal. If I were a lioness I might mistake the child for an baby zebra myself. An injured baby zebra, which makes for an easy meal, because the kid is placed alone on the floor propped up against the glass wall. And animals are, well, animals. I don’t blame the lioness for following her instincts. That’s how species survive. I’m just a little mystified as to why the parents continued to film the footage instead of scooping up their baby, especially after the lioness opened her massive jaws in an attempt to wrap them around the toddler’s head.
To be fair to the parents, the lioness was behind a thick glass-walled barrier. But still I feel the need to point out wild animals have been known to snack on humans. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I don’t trust any kind of barrier between my kid and a razor-tooth, man-eating animal, especially not a breakable one. Or perhaps I’m particularly sensitive because of my own experience at the zoo, but less than an inch of glass keeping an animal from attacking a child does not make me feel secure.
My personal experience doesn’t include a lioness or a panel of glass, but it was equally disturbing (fear not – no one was injured in the reporting of this piece). Several years ago when my daughter was about three-years-old my husband and I took her to the Turtle Back Zoo. It was late in the day on a cool fall afternoon, and most visitors had already gone home. My family was on our way out, too, when Lily wanted to make one last stop at the bob cat exhibit. We were the only ones around and Kevin and I hung back on the trail while Lily approached the cage. Like most animals in the zoo, the bob cat was hidden somewhere in her/his cage, and we couldn’t spot it. But as soon as Lily neared the wooden fence just feet from the ramshackle wire cage, the cat sprung from the rocks and darted over to the fence. I was immediately aware I had just witnessed a wild animal in action in the pursuit of my child, and it was frightening.I went into crisis mode, ran to Lily, yanked her from the cage and announced it was time to go home.
Do I know the bob cat would escape? No. But do I trust that the animal wouldn’t do everything in its power to get at easy prey? No. That moment is seared in my brain. That animal had every intention of eating my child. We as Americans don’t typically face that kind of danger, and although I’ve seen animals on the hunt before, it’s typically through the safety of my T.V. screen when I’m watching National Geographic. But it is real. I think people forget that. Forget the power, intelligence and determination of animals who are designed to hunt. And it would be good for us to remember that.