Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Tigers Rarely Climb Trees"

Siberian tigers like the one which killed one man and mauled two others at the San Francisco zoo have been described as "powerful but ponderous".

"They don't jump very high and they don't jump very far," said Ron Tilson, one of the nation's top tiger authorities who helped write the guidelines on how to safely restrain and care for zoo tigers. "Think of a sumo wrestler" - much too massive for leaping - and that's the tiger, said Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo. ...

Tilson said the committee that prepared those enclosure guidelines for zoos had hundreds of years of combined experience working with tigers. Committee members took every piece of evidence about the animals' jumping ability, then added a few feet to ensure safety. "We did not want our names on a document that said this is how far a tiger jumps, and then have one clear a zoo moat," he said.

Siberian tigers have a long reach, and can stretch 12 feet from toe to toe, but when they're leaping, the waistline of their body doesn't get much farther than five to eight feet off the ground, he said. Unlike more nimble cats, they rarely climb trees.

While the capabilities of the average tiger may be known, what is the chance of some unfortunate encountering the exceptional tiger -- the Michael Jordan of the tiger world? Tigers rarely climb trees, eh? And they can't swim either. One of the problems with measuring the true capabilities of the cats is that they think differently from human beings. We set up our tests to measure certain things. But the real action may be in what we do not measure. The Messy Beast writes:

Despite being favourite research subjects for over a century, cats are particularly challenging subjects for intelligence testing. It is hard to get them to show how they learn or what they know, especially in a laboratory setting. While social animals like dogs and horses respond to social rewards and to punishment, these are almost meaningless to cats. ...

Although cats are different from humans, it doesn't necessarily mean they don't learn in their own way. However they do it, they are sometimes capable of things they couldn't do before.

Some puzzle-boxes were quite complex. One latch required a simultaneous lift and push, and in other cages two or even three latches had to be opened in the correct sequence. Not all cats mastered these, but some did. The skills were gained gradually and Thorndike concluded "The gradual slope of the time-curve, then, shows the absence of reasoning. They represent the wearing smooth of a path in the brain, not the decisions of a rational consciousness." This is a generalisation as some cats improved abruptly and made no further mistakes even if months elapsed between tests. We describe the abrupt improvement as "the penny has dropped" or "something has clicked". One of my cats, Affy, was almost impossible to litter train despite 18 months of effort. One day she watched another cat using a litter tray and "the penny dropped"...

Engineers know that design specifications can only incorporate what we know about the range and complexity of forces to which our devices will be subjected. And they work well enough. Until a rogue wave, or an unprecedented earthquake or a rare harmonic motion sweeps them away and demonstrates that perhaps something has been forgotten.


Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

I suppose it could have been worse...

The Liger - Biggest Cat Of All

12/26/2007 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The San Diego Zoo is located in Southern California. Southern California is THE epicenter of all that is green and tree-huggy, PETA-animal protectors, and explosions in labs that use animals to test various things. It wouldn't surprise me an iota if some happy hippy anti-war pro-animal tree-hugger saw the movie "Madagascar" this weekend and thought it would be neato-keen to slip the lock on the tiger's cage so it could go out and discover "The Wild" and frolic as it was meant to be.

12/26/2007 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Ooops - above post should read San Francisco Zoo, not San Diego Zoo ... which is even worse because SF has a higher per capita of moonbats than pretty much any where else on earth.

12/26/2007 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, of course, none of the animals enclosure is really "consensual" and this explains why the tiger went after humans, killing one. i think the whole idea of a zoo is stupid and should be abolished. its not humane. ever see planet of the apes!

12/26/2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Tiger followed two after killing one.

The three victims, all young men from San Jose, were visiting the zoo together. They were all present when the tiger escaped, killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. with a savage slash to the throat, and injured the other two. ...

The injured victims fled, and the tiger apparently followed them under rapidly darkening skies for 300 yards down a zoo pathway. ...

Officials speculated that one of the victims may have been dangling a leg or other body part over the 14-foot grotto wall and that Tatiana latched onto the limb and climbed out. Police sources said a footprint had been found on a metal fence, suggesting that someone had climbed it to get closer to the big cats. ...

Sources said pinecones and sticks that were found in the moat might have been thrown at the animal. Those items could not have landed in the grotto naturally, they said.

Maybe it's not the same as human intelligence, but if this account is true, the tiger displayed some interesting problem solving skills.

12/26/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

And they can't swim either.

Who said that? I learned way back in elementary school that tigers are the only large cat that willingly swims.

12/27/2007 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Lucky Pierre said...

2008 Predictions:

1. Romney and Clinton in the general, Romney after a brokered GOP convention, Clinton after beating Obama by the skin of her teeth. The election will be close again, like 2000 or 2004, but I cannot foresee which way it will tip.

2. Oil prices reach a more reasonable $50 a barrel as Iraqi production is jacked up and slow growth tempers demand. Larry Kudlow continues to tell Goldilocks stories, at least until Hillary gets in there and raises taxes.

3. The United States, assisted by a collapsing dollar, ramps up on domestic manufacture of high-ticket items like cars and planes for export and domestic sale. Troops in Iraq are brought down to a level sufficient to get Romney into office but not enough to allow the insurgency to restart.

4. China starts making more of the middle-range stuff like refrigerators and television sets, and officially becomes a full partner in the global system, symbolized by the Olympics.

5. The strong Euro means Europe starts making more of the dollar store stuff, with local Muslims providing the touch labor. This makes them even more dependent on immigration from Algeria and Pakistan. Labor difficulties are not handled with strikes but with car and subway bombs.

6. Pope Benedict XVI rules ex cathedra, officially closing the door on female clergy and married priests in the Church (currently there are ambiguous statements from JP2 governing that issue). He tempers this by defining Mary's role as co-Redemptrix as Catholic Dogma, beatifies Johannes Paulus II Magnus, and canonizes Theresa of Calcutta.

7. The writers strike surpasses the duration of the 1988 one, running into the fall season. The long term effect is to kill the sitcom and drama format and completely turn television over to "reality" shows like Celebrity Bowling. Small independent films written by their director/producers dominate the Oscars.

8. The CD music format finally dies, killed by downloads, both legal and illegal. DVD rental vending machines appear at the front of every gas food mart. Sunglasses with GPS "heads-up" displays and built-in cellphones are the rage. Cars are fitted with computers and sensors that prevent tailgating, and this becomes mandatory by statute.

9. As the President sleepwalks through his final year in office, Bush Derangement Syndrome begins to go into remission worldwide. After a few incidents of mega-terrorism in Canada and the Netherlands, the non-Islamic world wakes up from their America-bashing dream and finds it it's still a dangerous place out there and the touchy-feely stuff doesn't always cut it.

10. A tunnel from Gaza to a village in the Negev permits Hamas to kidnap a number of civilians, including children, whose brutal torture is posted on YouTube. Israel responds with a full invasion that divides Gaza indefinitely into eight zones administered by IDF colonels. Abbas proceeds with "final status" negotiations for the West Bank, fearing the similar division and subdivision of Judaea and Samaria.

12/27/2007 05:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Buller said...

I can guarentee you number 6 doesn't happen. Pope Benedict (as a cardinal) was was instrumental in stopping Pope John Paul II from writing the document you predict. The pope can only speak ex cathedra about matters of faith and morality. Internal church rules can never be infallibly declared.

12/27/2007 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jrod said...

I think it was a copycat mauling.

12/27/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Read a headline yesterday that the families of the young victims are "demanding" answers -- you just KNOW they have visions of sugar plums and lawsuits dancing in their minds.

If those kids were hurling pine cones at a caged tiger and the tiger fought back, I sincerely hope the zoo sues the families of the "young men" for damages to cover the death and loss of their exceedingly valuable tiger, not to mention damage to the good name of the zoo.

12/27/2007 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger tckurd said...

"We don't know why he went to the zoo." This is a quote from Carlos Souza Sr., the father of the young man who died.

From this, something starts to form - why would 3 young twenty-somethings go to the zoo? This is not the likely place for young men to hang out to pick up young women, is it?

So, on CHRISTMAS DAY, just days after a siberian tiger was beheaded in a Chi-Comm Zoo, why do a bunch of kids go to the zoo when they never go to zoos? To perpetrate.

I want a rundown on their cell phones, what video is in them, what IM's were sent, etc. I want to know how much of this was done for our YouTube audience out there.

The question is, who would sue whom? If I were the zoo, I'd sue YouTube, the Cell Phone manufacturer, and the parents. You can sue AlGore(tm) too for creating the internet used as the transport.

12/27/2007 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dublin Saab said...

I once had a 975 lb. male Siberian tiger named "Nikita" grab a hold of my arm with his mouth. Fortunately for me he was merely being playful as I had not been taunting him. He let go of my arm and then rolled over on his side and batted at me like a like kitten.

I backed away, slowly, and thus ended my career as a big cat trainer.

12/27/2007 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

He was probably inviting you to scratch his belly to show you how much he loved you ... enough to eat you.

12/27/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is not the likely place for young men to hang out to pick up young women, is it?"

obviously they went there to try and get some pussy. turns out the pussy got them. thankyouverymuch!

maybe it was a language mixup

12/27/2007 11:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

of course its a COPYCAT mauling!
it is after all a CAT!

12/27/2007 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger DrDucati900 said...

I once examined a 60# tiger cub's eyes. As the trainer distracted him with a bottle I looked. He gently pushed my hand away several times. It was like being pushed with a powder puff filled with razor blades. When I looked down blood was streaming down my arms from many small lacerations.
I have no desire to get close to a bigger one.

12/28/2007 05:59:00 AM  
Blogger bogie wheel said...

My Siberian tiger (okay, he's a housecat who *thinks* he's a tiger) once jumped from the seat of a folding metal chair (approx 18inches high) onto the top of a half-open door (approx 7 feet high and all of 1-1/2" wide). He managed to do this with minimal butt-hefting via hind legs, and was able to keep his balance even as the door moved on its hinges.

He also tore across the living room one evening and zoomed straight up the LR curtains in about 3 claw-assisted bounds, finally coming to rest in perch-stance on top of the curtain rod.

This is a 16-pound bruiser of a cat, mind you, not some featherweight sprightly thing.

Felines. Even the big 'uns are agile as heck when they wanna be.

12/30/2007 11:48:00 AM  

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