Arizona’s Tigers of Africa

Posted in Arizona Images, Dangerous on October 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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I won’t belabor the obvious. I posted only once in September. This is my first post in October. It would be a gross understatement to say that something is happening. In fact, a great many things are happening. I have been “busy”. That word covers a huge swath of ground. The day-to-day changes are not amusing, so I’ll not waste precious time by accounting for them here. The big changes pretty much take my breath away. In the space of a little over a year I have made countless difficult. perplexing but sometimes happy decisions at a time when I’m not supposed, according to popular wisdom, to be making any substantial decisions at all. I won’t go back over those either. Once is enough.

However, I might tally up the results. I have disposed of nearly every possession which I previously owned, except for some technical gear (what man can live without it?) a bit of furniture and my meager wardrobe. I have traveled here and yon for months searching for my future. I have wooed and won my life long friend, Grace. She was (and presumably still is) the life long friend of my late wife, Eunie. I have relocated the stage for the last acts of my life half way around the world from wet and wild Madang to dry and wild Sedona. If that’s not enough, well . . . okay, I’m getting married again this Saturday afternoon.

Whew!

And this is me, charging bravely, if still somewhat clueless, into whatever comes next:

Uhhh . . . well, no. Actually, that’s not me. I am not nearly so handsome. Grace and I, on her birthday this Monday, visited Out of Africa at Camp Verde, Arizona. I have never been to a wildlife park before. The glitz factor has, until now, kept me at bay. I like Out of Africa, because my perception is that there is far more focus on the animals themselves than on providing excessive comfort and pizazz to appeal to jaded tourists. Frankly, much of the park is ever so slightly shabby. That appeals to me when viewed beside the care and concern offered to the animals.

Watching the gorgeous white tiger being exercised in the enclosed area containing a large pool was one of the most exciting and interesting animal exhibits I’ve seen. Though one might blink at the idea of tigers out of Africa, nothing else in this show is fake. The big predators here might appear to be tame, but the handlers insist that they do not train them in any way. The say that they take care to give the big cats experiences which are as close to hunting as can be devised in captivity. Here Chalet, the white Bengal takes another dramatic leap into the water:

Why the huge lunges into the pool? The answer is in this shot:

I imagine that the park tigers puncture enough large inflatable plastic toys each year to keep a small Chinese factory going. It is one leap – one shredded blow up. The tiger always gets what it’s after:

In the shot above it’s interesting to examine the focus of the tiger’s attention. It it clearly on the toy and not on the handler. As you watch the show this tactic becomes clear. The toy is the game, not the person controlling it. The cats don’t seem to mind the fakery. The handler in the image above will soon flip the toy over the tiger’s head and run like crazy for the pool, making certain that he is well away from the toy when the tiger lunges powerfully through the air at the sailing object. The puffy plastic will suffer the same fate as a leaping antelope.

Some of these antics are so stunning that I don’t really feel like commenting about them. The images speak much more elegantly than I:

I was worried that shooting through the chain-link fence would be a problem. As it turns out the shallow depth of field of the Canon 300mm telephoto lens saved the day. It focused flawlessly on the main subjects while blurring the fence enough so that it is not too distracting.

The big cats, lions, tigers and a lone black leopard are not the only denizens of the park. Here is Grace having her hand washed by one of the giraffes’ sixteen inch purple tongue. This is a sensory treat which I have, so far, avoided:

And here is something that you don’t see every day:

It is amusing to watch the giraffe as it withdraws from the coach. It carefully lowers its head just enough to avoid konking its knobby antlers on the window frame.

I have a couple of more leaping tiger shots for you. I set the Canon 5D MkII for rapid fire. It usually digests five frames per second at full resolution, though it does occasionally stutter at an imappropriate moment. I think this is because my memory card is not quite fast enough to keep up:

What you see above and below are nice examples of what the handlers are trying to accomplish. One must suppose that everybody is winning here. The paying audience is certainly getting their $36 worth, even better if you’ve gotten in on one of the common half-price deals. The big cats appear to be getting some much needed aerobic exercise and having what passes for fun in captivity. The handlers, hopefully well paid, are getting an adrenalin rush second to none.

Once in a while the tiger gets the jump on the toy and the handler, preparing to flip the thing over the top for a good leap, gets jerked onto his back in mid-air:

Out of Africa is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. For family fun at a very reasonable price you would be hard pressed to beat it.

I got fitted for my getting married outfit today. I won’t be spectacular, but Grace will certainly look classy, as she always does. We are going down by Beaver Creek where the wonderful red rocks are reflected in the water.

Maybe I’ll get some good pictures. I don’t really care as long as I get that ring on my finger.

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