MAMMALS OF THE WORLD

FAMILY FELIDAE The Great Cats

Since childhood it had been a dream to see and photograph all of the world's five big cats in the wild. It has taken nearly sixty years, but herewith:

  • Leopard [photos Nov 1981 Kenya, Aug 2002 Tanzania]
  • Lion [photo Aug 2002 Tanzania]
  • Cheetah [ph Aug 2002 Tanzania]
  • Tiger [photo Mar 2001 India]
  • Jaguar [photo July 2010 Brazil]

Jaguar was the most difficult — I'd seen fresh tracks, a just-killed cat hit by car, and heard one close by, before success.

 

Who can explain why it was that the Great Cats stirred me? Was it that I read Jim Corbett's Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1946), about man-eating tigers and leopards in India, multiple times as a child? Was it because I loved the Lion House at the San Francisco Zoo, especially at feeding time? Was it because I was fascinated to learn that Cheetah was the fastest mammal on earth? I remember arguing with other kids that my toy speedboat was the fastest because I'd named it the Cheetah.

Or was it that living with women comes with pets, and the best pets are indoor cats? [General Grant, right]. I don't know, but I am a confirmed cat person.

My dad loved dogs. I grew up with dogs, but I never liked dogs. I can be impressed with seeing Gray Wolf, Maned Wolf, and Painted Wolf [aka Cape Hunting Dog] and still not think much of dogs. They are pack animals. I, like a cat, am a loner. I am impressed with the cat's beauty, stealth, power, and the ability to disappear from view. There is something mystical about having a big cat look right through in the wild..... it could kill you if pushed, but it is not worth the bother. You just gotta be impressed.

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Page created 18 Aug 2010
all photos & text © 2010 Don Roberson
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