Our World

A long story kind of short, our first daughter was born with a cleft-lip and palate and we decided to have her treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, about 70 miles and two hours drive away considering traffic.

When she had to begin orthodontic work she was around five. We decided the trips would be more fun if she knew she could stop at the Zoo (both facilities are located on 34th Street). We bought a membership and began what has become a very important part of our lives.

After each appointment, we’d stop at the Zoo. Maybe an hour, maybe three, but either way there was no pressure to see everything, we knew we’d be back, let’s just hang out and see a few things well.

It was right around the time Big Cat Falls was opened. My daughter first fell in love with the lions. She had a school project and decided to do it on them. We visited the site and learned about the work of Dr. Laurence Frank, we found his email. He graciously replied to my daughter’s questions and we’ve since followed and been very intrigued by his work and its challenges.

Then the tiger cubs were born, and she shifted from lions to tigers as her favorites (one day we sat for over an hour watching them play as she took pictures until the camera was full).

She’s maintained an interest in all big cats, and as a result I keep an eye open for interesting pieces about them for her to watch.

Today, I came across one that is really like no other. It was from TED, of whom I was introduced to by Peter (thank you my friend and mentor). This presentation is close to 20 minutes, give yourself plenty of time to watch and absorb. Beverly and Dereck Joubert presented in December of 2010 (watch it here).

The photography and video is unmatched. In jumping back to the blog and reading the comments one individual identified a major point that was missing from the presentation, which coupled with the information I learned from Dr. Frank’s projects, I believe to be true – the core problem for big cats are their human neighbors, local farmers, and not big-game hunters.

The Joubert’s presentation was amazing, one of the most compelling I’ve ever watched, but it ended with a message that big-game hunters were the primary problem to male lions, which when killed have significant ramifications for the population at large due to their societal structure (which I also don’t dispute).

What I’d learned to date was that local farmers, not foreign hunters (and to an extent even black market traders), who want to understandably protect their livestock see the big cats as a tremendous threat, and will kill them in any way possible, be it by gunfire, poisoning or what-have-you.

Dr. Frank’s approach has been to explain the value of having the big cat, while concurrently teaching how to best protect the livestock in unregulated areas.

It is scary to consider sharing your property with a predator, but at the same time, the loss would be ultimately devastating. The efforts of these individuals to raise awareness about the current state of the big cats is admirable.

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