Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 11/04/2012

Saved by the skin of my teeth.

Bengal Tiger, originally uploaded by

He looks a bit cross doesn’t he? He’s not actually snarling, despite what it may seem, he is in fact yawning. Whilst I’m more than pleased with the photo, I suspect I should be more than a little offended – with the exception of the various sporting events I photograph, most of my other subjects seem to start yawning as soon as I start photographing them. I don’t know whether it’s my dulcet tones, or my photographic manner but it would appear there is something about my proximity that sends what I’m photographing into to a somnolent state! The truth is most big cats are more active at night than they are in the day, and rather than sending these magnificent creatures to sleep, we’re actually keeping them awake – it’s a wonder these creatures aren’t more grumpy and belligerent, after all I know how I feel if my sleep is disturbed.

What was it I asked you to remind me of, Dear Reader, oh yes, Leopard. Amongst the plethora of big cats kept at Paradise Park, all of whom are in fantastic condition, there is one of the cat family you don’t often see in the various menageries we visit, an African Leopard. You may well remember the iconic image (at the risk of blowing my own trumpet (other brass instruments are available*)) I took last year whilst on safari on the Masai Mara of a Leopard sitting on a log in the late afternoon sun. A similar photographic opportunity didn’t arise whilst I was visiting the Park, but I had an even more exhilarating experience. Two members of the public were having a Big Cat experience with one of the Zoo Keepers, where they got to put food out in the various big cat enclosures (the cats being separated safely in an alternate section). The Leopard could smell a slaughtered chicken stored in a nearby bucket which was going to be fed to the cat once the Keeper and entourage were done feeding the Ocelot in the next enclosure and was pacing back and forth in its own environment. Standing closer to the glass so I could better observe this most secretive member of the cat family, I got the shock of my life when the Leopard changed its course and charged at the glass less than an inch separating the two of us(that inch being glass of the window, and the window frame itself!) , the cat snarling and showing it’s teeth in the process. I don’t have to tell you, Dear Reader, that my pulse quicken just a little at this encounter… and increased when it did it several more times. Oddly the cat didn’t appear to be in attack mode, and I later found out that this big cat is actually a big pussy cat having been a pet for many years before being rescued by the park. Still, I don’t think I’ll take my chance with it, and I can only imagine what state my trousers, legs would be if it decided to try and settle on my lap!

*Yep, trying to keep my impartiality in case the BBC call and ask me to stand in for Sir David Attenborough (well, you can dream can’t you)



  1. I love pictures of animals either with their mouths open or their mouths full of food.

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