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Animals, Germany, Photography

Photography: Kölner Zoo

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with both monkeys and tigers. Monkeys, because I took a fantastic human origins course last semester of college that was 30% about people and 70% about the ruthless, sweet, disturbingly human lives of various kinds of monkeys and apes. Tigers, because the tiger is one of those amazing animals that is very close to extinction.

The Kölner Zoo is gorgeous with large enclosures, and the animals seem to have zero fear of humans, and the humans zero fear of animals – the cheetahs pacing restlessly around their gently shaded lawn could have easily jumped over the low plexiglass fence and eaten me, if they so desired. They didn’t, so instead it was just awesome.

If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Kölner Zoo, I highly recommend it. It’s been there longer than New Mexico has been a state and is worth a whole day.

What brought on this sudden awakening about a phrase I’d heard so often it had begun to take on that alien timbre of a word said too many times in a row – hovering on the brink of extinction – was that I read somewhere that for a species to be doomed, it does not have to be dead; it just has to have a certain low number of individuals able to breed with each other who are too genetically similar to maintain a varied population. This is the worst sort of death, because it is seen from miles away, and it is utterly implacable. Two animals, regardless of how often they breed and how often their children breed, cannot re-create a species.

The tiger is almost there. As are many other species, but (apologies to all other slowly-dying species) the tiger takes priority with me.

There are plans to help wild tigers reach each other through man-made ‘pathways’ – narrow swatches of untouched forest connecting isolated populations. This way tigers have the opportunity to breed across a wider gene pool. It takes a great deal of effort and governments working together to both keep those stretches of forest untouched and to keep poachers away.

I have no idea what I could possibly do to help, but at the very least, knowing about it stresses me out.

Seeing a giant, beautiful tiger playing super cute in the water was the absolute best! I still can’t believe I managed to get this sequence, all in focus. He would jump, swim around to the edge, half-jump up the wall and make all the kids squeal, paddle back to the grass, shake himself off, and do it all over again.

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