Weekly Pic | 6th Feb | That Time I Was Chased By A Tiger

10 years ago | Howlett’s Wild Animal Park, Canterbury, Kent | 8th February 2013

Ten years ago, we made a half-term trip to Kent, which involved a visit to Howlett’s, just outside of Canterbury.

If you’ve never been, it’s a brilliant place.  Bought in 1956 by John Aspinall, a casino owner, friend of Lord Lucan and member of ‘The Mayfair Set’ to house his private menagerie, it was opened to the public in 1975.

It was later re-organised as a charity (the John Aspinall Foundation) and has since become well known for its conservation programmes, particularly the western lowland gorilla.  If you’ve ever seen footage a wild gorilla in the jungle emotionally greeting the man who’d released him years previously, that man will have been Damian Aspinall, John’s son, who now manages Howlett’s and its sister park, Port Lympne, also in Kent.

We’d been to Howlett’s before but this time, I wanted to take some better photos of the animals and, before long, we arrived at the Amur tiger (also called the Siberian tiger) area.  It just so happened that the park had managed to breed two new cubs but had had to rear them by hand, after their mother showed no interest in them.  This was the week the five month-old siblings, Kazimir and Arina were given their own enclosure.

Elsewhere, the various tigers are usually fairly motionless, as big cats tend to be.  One of the Sumatran tigers was sat on the roof of his shelter, gnawing quietly on what was clearly a pony’s leg.  In the interests of creating engaging photography, these cute, inquisitive cubs were clearly a more interesting option.

And so we waved at them, spoke to them, engaged their curiosity and ran up and down the side of their enclosure, hoping they’d respond.  Kazimir, the young male was more inquisitive and started to follow.  It led to us being ‘chased’ by this young tiger – with a fence between us, obviously – repeatedly up and down the length of the enclosure, until he became bored of us.  The fence didn’t help much with the photography but it was quite a privilege to connect with such a beautiful, exotic animal – and I managed to get a lot of great pictures of the two cubs.