Saturday, September 19, 2009

The World Is Not A Petting Zoo

You thought Sascha Cohen's Borat, Bear-In-Used-Ice-Cream-Truck
was funny, right? I did. However, the Bear may have other ideas.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 (BBC) JAPAN: An Asian black bear has been shot dead after attacking a group of tourists at a bus station in Takayama, Gifu prefecture...

The male bear attacked a group of nine people, mostly tourists, waiting for a bus to take them to the nearby mountains. ... After the attack, the four foot bear fled through the bus terminal, and into a souvenir shop. Employees then trapped it inside the shop, and the bear was later shot dead by officials...

Human beings -- primarily Westerners, who have lost any real understanding of how to behave and navigate in rural or wilderness environments -- are incredibly stupid when it comes to encountering any animals, large reptiles, serious arachnids and centipedes, and big fish in the wild.

Didn't you get the memo, pal? Are you bucking for a 'Darwin'?
Bears appear cute to humans; humans look like food to Bears.

One of my favorite videos is of a woman (a candidate for Stupidest Human Of The Twentieth Century) at a zoo in the early 1990's. The zoo had a raised walkway running in front of the Polar Bear cage -- an actual cage, with bars. The raised walkway was ten or so feet from the cage, and had handrails. There were posted signs, between the walkway and the cage, warning people not to leave the walkway or approach the animals in their cages.

The world is not -- let me repeat that; is not -- a petting zoo.

No matter. A stocky blonde woman in white shorts, pink top, and very white Nike running shoes slipped under the walkway handrail, and walked right up to a polar bear standing just on the other side of the bars of its cage. Placing one foot right up against the bars, she leaned forward, and with one hand held out some food item towards the bear (All of this was being captured on video by another tourist who, much less stupid, had remained on the walkway).

Being curious, the Bear padded up to the bars, sniffed at the food -- and suddenly jerked its head down, bit the woman's foot resting against the bars, and started dragging her leg-first into the cage.

Pandemonium! Shock! Tableau! Other tourists came rushing off the walkway to her aid; after a brief tug-of-war, the woman is freed! The last shot in the video was a closeup of the Polar Bear, looking out from behind the bars of its cage, the woman's white Nike running shoe dangling by its laces from his mouth.

The bear blinks back at the camera, and if it could speak, you know it would say something like Well, what the hell did you expect?? I'm a Bear!!

Canadian Bears, Enjoying Lunch, Speak with Horrified Tourists

The most recent, widely-viewed Human / Bear encounter was at the Berlin Zoo in April of this year: During feeding time at the Polar Bear enclosure, a 32-year-old woman jumped from a twenty-plus-foot-high wall into the moat and began swimming towards the bears, who were waiting expectantly for some other, less active form of food.

The Bears wrestled with their primal instincts -- however, primal instincts are, well... primal. Any ten people, picked at random on the street, could tell you what happened next: The Bears sniffed at her, sort of looked her over... and then, one of them gave her an experimental bite.

(Photo: ©2009, World Entertainment News Network [WENN])

The woman screamed, swam back to the wall; the bears followed; zookeepers quickly lowered a sling to her, while bopping the Bears on their heads with a rubber weight at the end of a long pole. Unfortunately, the woman (who was, uh, "plus-sized") kept slipping and dropping back into the water. After a hair-raising few minutes, she was pulled to safety and lucky to be alive.

(Original Photo ©2009, WENN)

The woman was never identified, or the reason why she decided on this novel form of potential suicide. The Bear Enclosure's Director, a Herr Heiner, said (in not-untypical German fashion), "The woman was foolish... [she] should logically expect that adult polar bears would attack her if she jumped in."

Apparently, this wasn't the only recent incident, either: In December, 2008, a man had jumped into another area in the Bear enclosure, looking for 'Knut', the famous orphaned Polar Bear Cub. Knut has grown considerably, and is more aggressive now than a small, cute cub; if he'd found the guy, the Bear would have been happy to knock him down and eat the 'good parts'.

Little Knut (Then); And Much Larger 400-Plus-Pound Knut (Now).

There has been recent speculation that animals are being prompted to attack humans in a kind of Gaian, "Revenge Of The Planet" scenario, now that our general ecosystem is deteriorating. For that, you'd have to subscribe to the theory that the Earth is one, large organism, is finally reacting to the toxic changes wrought by humankind, and that animal attacks are just one expression of Mother Earth's rage.

Gaia's Revenge: You Never, Ever, See That Pool Shark Coming.

I think it's a much less complicated, but ultimately just as chilling, explanation: As the world's climate continues to change, species of animals (including reptiles, insects, and bears) will either adapt or die -- and part of that adaptation must be to move into areas populated by other species -- particularly human beings.

Mountain Lion, Cruising A Neighborhood In Monrovia, CA.

And when humans come into contact with other species, they can treat them with caution and respect, or do what all of the 'funny' pictures above have done, and anthropomorphize them -- endow them with human emotions and motivations.

If we do that, it usually all ends in sad miscalculations and someone either being rushed to an emergency room, or becoming hot lunch for... well; something. Just be thankful that only humans and apes have opposable thumbs -- but, with environmental change often comes genetic adaptation... so, who knows?

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