Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lions, Tigers and Bears. Lions are enough.

There are some series of words that one does not expect to see strung together in English. I am not talking about nonsense. Any idiot can string together random words in a grammatical way – “The banana ran down the street shouting psalms” and so on.
I am talking about an altogether different type – sentences that make complete sense, convey real, verifiable information, and yet are so unexpected that the mind rebels, something like “Tom Cruise weds Katie Holmes.” That was a hard one to digest.

But a few weeks ago I heard one that was almost more than I could wrap my head around. I heard it on the BBC, which for some reason seems odd as well. I can’t find the exact wording, but it went something like this:

“Illegal immigrants are being eaten by lions.”

This turns out to be true. It goes like this: the collapse of the economy of Zimbabwe has caused many people to try to sneak across the border into South Africa. Unfortunately, this happens to take them through one of the last great swaths of land where lions roam free. And, although much has changed in the course of the last few millennia of civilization, one thing that has not changed is that lions will eat human beings. And there’s not a hell of a lot a human can do to stop it in toe-to-toe fight.

The BBC quoted a wildlife expert as saying it is possible that lions are eating more humans today than at any point in history. This is another unlikely series of words.

I don’t know why this story has haunted me. I certainly hope that nobody in the House of Representatives heard this story and considers adding it to the border security bill.


dogimo said...

That's a pretty horrific story from a purely human stanpoint. The collapse of an economy can be a lot worse than those tame words sound, in terms of sheer human misery. But I don't care how bad the collapse of an economy can be..."eaten by lions" trumps it any day of the week.

It seems very strange to me. I feel like the people would be a little wiser as to the dangers of the area.

I mean, risking your life on the open ocean in a home-made raft to get to safer shores, that just seems more like climbing a mountain or something. Sure, there might be sharks, but you're chiefly worried about the boat collapsing or capsizing. Or running out of drinkable water.

Crossing land infested by man-eating lions, on the other hand...that seems like a much more primal, terror-inducing prospect.

Well, as we smug environmentalists always say in this country, you can't just encroach on a wild animal's habitat. If it's a predator, there's a decent chance it will at least evaluate your prey-worthiness.

But those poor, poor people.r

Sean Scully said...

Yes, true. It does amaze me how quickly we forget that the world remains a dangerous and uncontrollable place. Animals will kill you. The sea will suck you down without a trace. Very cold and very hot weather will kill you quickly. Civilization has separated us from that knowlege, but it doesn't always protect us from that truth.