Thursday, November 17, 2005

Changing spots 

There's been a story in all the newspapers here about a 9 year old boy whose arm was mauled by a leopard on Tuesday, while on a school excursion to Melbourne Zoo. He apparently climbed over a barrier and had his arm deeply scratched by Kashmar, the one-eyed female Persian leopard. He's recovering well and doesn't seem to bear a grudge. However, it's interesting that today's papers have universally paraphrased or altered the boy's quote about revisiting the Zoo, where he talks of in future going past the "cheetah" that got him on the way to see the reptiles - replacing it with the word "leopard" instead (the real soundbite was played on Triple J's news yesterday).

Beyond the editorial aspects of this change, a cheetah would have been extremely unlikely to attack him in this manner (particularly as it lacks retractable claws and doesn't prey on people) and there are currently none at Royal Park. Leopards have grown up with small primates (including humanoids) as a primary food source, since time immemorial. As this boy is apparently interested in animals, I wonder no-one has explained the difference between a cheetah and a leopard at this highly relevant stage. Fortunately, everyone seems to be regarding this attack sensibly, and I hope it won't mean added bars and fences on enclosures.

I'm probably writing this because it relates to a book review that I plan to write here soon... (no, not Life of Pi again :)).

And I'll ignore the predictable wide disparities in the representation of crowd estimates for Tuesday's Industrial Rally by the various presses...

P.S. No Illustration Friday from me this week - I've been rushing around doing a million other things and haven't had the "Strength."


Coincidence indeed, Ian! I hadn't picked up on the discrepancy between cheetah and leopard, one would think the kid knew the difference, but then you'd also think he'd have had enough sense not to go sticking his face in cages.
It's odd the way the papers have closed ranks on this one, and the general feeling of trying to make a hero out of him. There's also the constant mention of how he's interested in animals - but apparently not enough to know the difference between a leopard and a cheetah, even after this.

As you pointed out (on your Blog), the idea that there is a need to forgive Kashmar anything is ridiculous. The poor Zoo feeling a need to give him a free pass also seems (as a letter to The Age pointed out today) like rewarding bad behaviour.

While I'm pleased he's okay, Persian leopards are critically endangered, while badly behaved kids are plentiful.
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