Back in the early days of my annual calendar, it was a given that a tiger would be featured in one of the 13 (including the cover) photos appearing in each year’s edition. Because I had used up all of my best shots in the stories for Kemala (2016) and Hari (2017), I decided not to put either of them in last year’s calendar. I was hoping to go with one of the new Amurs this year, but a long delay in access to their exhibits for the viewing public meant any great shots of them would be snapped too late for my publishing deadline, so it looked as if I’d be “tigerless” for one more year. But at the 11th Hour – while my friend, Lynda, and I were at the Zoo hoping to finally catch a glimpse of the huge cats – lightning struck. Realizing the Amurs were not yet on view, we headed to the opposite end of the Zoo and up the wooden path to the African Rainforest Pavilion. As we passed the Sumatran Tiger House, we saw Kemala lounging on the platform in the “training area”, very close to the fence.
As you can see from the photo on the right here, which was taken with the same kit but 18 months earlier, when the subject is very close to their side of a fence, no amount of zoom is ordinarily enough to remove all of the “ghosting” from that fence, no matter how wide an aperture I use. Focus on the area from Kemala’s muzzle to the bottom of the frame to see what I mean. But, for some reason, on this particular day – as Kemala turned her head to slow blink for Lynda and then casually shifted her piercing gaze toward me – no ghosting appeared on the final product. A trick of the light? A bolt from the blue? Kemala just really wanted to be in the calendar? I don’t know the answer, but when I put the pieces together and sent the 2019 edition in to be published less than a week later, this very last-minute shot was in it. And, amazingly, this may prove over the years to be my very favourite shot I ever take of her, because I know she’s stunningly beautiful, but I’ve never captured it so perfectly.
However, using up the majority of my best photos for the two previous posts is not the only issue. In the first post, I told pretty much all of my good stories about both of the Sumatrans: Hari and Kemala. So when I featured Hari in his own photo just a few months later, I was forced to branch out and relate some tales about all of the other tigers I had encountered over the past several years, in various different locations. I would now talk about the Amurs that I had hoped to feature in this very spot, but I fully expect to use a shot of one or the other of them in 2020 (providing I produce a calendar next year; I’ll talk more about that when I have more details to share) so I can’t very well “rob Kira to pay Kemala.” Which means that the rest of this post would almost certainly have had to devolve into simply a photo gallery of this year’s best shots of the Sumatrans… were it not for a few weeks in the late spring when Kemala decided to latch on (literally) to her Best. Toy. Ever.
Kemala has always played with the plastic barrels in her enclosure – especially when she’s in the north exhibit. She likes to drag them around and seems to especially enjoy pushing them into the front area of the den and then lying behind it (provided she’s still being hit by the sun). Most of the time, like any other big cat, you will find Kemala or Hari sleeping; to be fair, though, tigers are generally more active than the rest of the felines. However, from mid-May to mid-June there wasn’t one single time that I ventured over to see the Sumatran tigers when Kemala was not only awake but latched onto her favourite white barrel like she was taking down a rather stubborn Malayan tapir. In fact, the only time in that whole month that I saw her release her hold on the barrel and walk away for a moment was when she had (apparently inadvertently) dragged it into her pond and was trying to work out how best to get it back onto dry land. The shot above right was taken on May 18. Here is one from May 26:
And one from June 8:
And finally, June 18:
BTW, here is what Hari was generally doing while Kemala was working up a sweat all of these days:
I’d say that sums up his attitude rather succinctly.
I’ll leave you, as I often do, with a few random shots of the two beautiful Sumatran cats at the Toronto Zoo and tell you that the animal featured next month was also a last-minute decision (for an entirely different reason). I’ve never featured him before – in fact, I rarely have featured his class of animal – and it’s highly unlikely he’ll show up again: this is kind of a one-in-a-million shot given his location in the Zoo. And, hopefully, by the time I create the blog post I will find out his name! Wishing you all a wonderful September.
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