Of Lion Paw and Tiger Jaw
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OF LION PAW AND TIGER JAW--Stories
Humans may not be the only animals who crave freedom.
In these stories, we enter the minds of thirteen wild creatures and the humans that interact with them. There is no anthropomorphizing here--the beasts in this collection may be sentient, but they do not think like people, whether we encounter a captive tiger aching to kill a deer or an Alaskan eagle nervous about a pair of photographers approaching its nest. When a gray whale finds itself stranded on a California beach, it has no frame of reference for the dog sniffing its overheated body. Nor can an orangutan in an Indonesian rehab center understand the origins of the flood threatening its cage.
The interior world of non-humans can only be explored through fiction--fiction based on what scientists have learned both in the laboratory and in the field. Only via story can we understand a giraffe struggling through a nasty drought, the sizzling in a white shark’s neural bundles when it finds the sea awash in tuna chum, or the pain an elephant feels from a poacher’s bullet.
People living close to animals best understand how they are different, yet similar to humans. Nature photographers, zookeepers, wildlife biologists, even Central American macaw smugglers, have knowledge of wild creatures urban humans lack. Within this volume we find a scientist exploring the underwater Antarctic world of a leopard seal, a drunk getting a bit too close to a polar bear in Churchill, Manitoba, and a crocodile expert in Northern Australia with a grudge to settle.
In a world where ever-growing human populations steal more and more ecologic carrying capacity from wildlife, it might behoove us to try to understand the animal mind. To understand a creature is to know it; to know it is to love it; and to love it may help keep it alive.