The Mercury

A jungle out there

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LAST week we looked at the Botswana practice of painting glaring yellow eyes on the backsides of cattle, to discourage lions from attacking them from behind.

Now a reader who calls himself NDC sends in a piece from the New York Times that runs along similar lines.

It seems that in the Sundurban Tiger Reserve in the Ganges Delta, in India, Bengal tigers have been killing humans at a rate of 60 a year as they come into the mangrove forest to fish and cut wood – as they are allowed to.

But a bright fellow from the Calcutta Science Club noted that tigers always attack from behind. Why not put face masks on people entering the reserve – but back to front so the tigers think they are facing them, he suggested.

They tried it with realistic rubber masks, each one having a thin moustache – apparently the fashion in the Ganges mercidler@inl.co.za

Delta – but worn back to front.

It seems to have worked. Tigers have been observed following people but they hold off because they think they are being watched.

The only mask-wearer to have been zapped was an unfortunat­e fellow who took his off to eat lunch – and was promptly pounced on by a tiger.

By contrast, 29 people not wearing the masks have been killed in the past 18 months.

Fascinatin­g stuff. NDC – who seems to have spent time in the local bush on wilderness trails and things – also tells us lions prefer as prey animals that are vegetarian. They go for antelope and zebra rather than other carnivores such as hyenas or wild dogs. The lions can scent the difference.

And it poses an interestin­g question, NDC says.

“What do you do if you are on a wilderness walking trail with a mixed group of men and women, meat-eaters and vegetarian­s, and you encounter a lion? It is a tense moment. What if: You are a male meat eater and the vegetarian is a delightful woman? The vegetarian is a male competitor? You are the vegetarian?

“Do you shield the vegetarian lady with your body? Get behind the male vegetarian? Stand as still as a vegetable? Run for your vegetarian life?

“This is not an entirely academic question. Many years ago I was on a walking wilderness trail with such a mixed group and we did come face to face with a lion.”

This is a most interestin­g conundrum. One’s instinct is to say seize the delightful vegetarian woman in fast embrace so she will be defended from attack by your foul carnivorou­s odours. But it also raises the question – why not play safe and grab her anyway? Why wait for the lion to arrive?

In fact if you encounter a delightful vegetarian lady – and there are lots of them around – why not seize her in fast embrace wherever you happen to be? So what if it’s the high street or a shopping mall? Play it safe! A lion can spring from anywhere, it’s a jungle out there!

Panjandrum phones

GOVERNMENT officials seem to be permanentl­y attached to their cellphones, investment analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest grumpy newsletter.

“Whenever one watches a news clip where government panjandrum­s are out and about, most of the party will have a cellphone pressed to their ear. Even when gravely inspecting the site of a tragedy they are often simultaneo­usly talking to someone presumably far away. Who, for goodness sake?

“So it’s not really much of a surprise to read that the state spends R3.2 billion annually to provide its 1.3 million employees with telecommun­ications services.

“This amount includes the costs of data connection­s for computers

 ?? PICTURE: EPA ?? Elderly and middle-aged people practise physical activity with wooden dumbbells during an event marking Respect for the Aged Day in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday. According to recent statistics, the number of Japanese people aged 100 or older reached a...
PICTURE: EPA Elderly and middle-aged people practise physical activity with wooden dumbbells during an event marking Respect for the Aged Day in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday. According to recent statistics, the number of Japanese people aged 100 or older reached a...
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