Peter Gets Up Close and Personal with Majel the Tiger

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During our trip to California in August, we paid a visit to the San Diego Safari Park. It was one of Peter’s Mom’s favorite places. The first stop is always to visit her memorial plaque which is displayed just outside the Wings of the World enclosure. Peter’s Mom’s boyfriend Dave and Aunt Lucy went with us that day and we all felt the peace that Christine would have wanted us to have. We were ready for a fun day ahead!

The San Diego Safari Park is a non-profit organization home to more than 300 species of animals and is well known for their free-range habitats and successful breeding programs which help fight extinction all over the world. We saw tigers and lions and bears, OH MY! Just kidding, we didn’t see any bears. There were all kinds of birds, cheetahs, elephants, gorillas, giraffes, rhinos, bats, reptiles and lots of other species I can’t pronounce.

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Of course at lunchtime I couldn’t resist getting the coconut sorbet which came frozen in a real coconut shell 😉

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Look close and you can see a rhino camouflaged near the boulders in the shade…

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This guy was some very rare species that I can’t remember or pronounce, and they told us its even more rare to get a glimpse of him in plain view. Normally very elusive, he was enjoying this beautiful day in the sun just like us…

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Always a kid at heart <3

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Mud bath anyone?

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Finally we made it to the relatively new Tiger Trail. The very cool and zen entrance would be a perfect place for a little meditation or just a nice spot to rest.

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Shortly after the exhibit entrance, a secret pathway led to a thick glass wall where one of the male tigers happened to be napping.

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A little further in we met Majel, an adult female that apparently wasn’t feeling very welcoming. I later zoomed in on the camera and discovered she was warning us upon our arrival, though we didn’t even know it at the time. With a face like that we would have steered clear had we known how she felt that day.

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As we moved along the walkway, Majel roamed around behind the chain link fence and made occasional appearances to check us out. Talk about up close and personal!

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Even further down the walkway we found her laying in the shade.

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Just then, we saw her head turn, and her gaze fixed on Peter who was standing to my left. As he unknowingly and gently loosened the ice in our Yeti tumbler, Majel’s eyes and whole face changed in a way that instantly sent fear running up my spine. As if by waving a magic wand, her whole demeanor turned instantly savage. I involuntarily blurted out “Uh Oh…” and within seconds later, Majel had made one crouching tiger leap into the air and was headed straight for Peter. I couldn’t process what was happening fast enough to get it on video but somehow I managed to get this one picture of her mid-air before her massive body bounced off of the seemingly insignificant chain link fence just 5 feet away from us.

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The fence literally gave way about a foot towards us before she landed on the ground and made one final attempt to bust through and eliminate Peter from her surroundings.

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After that very stressful moment, she decided to go cool off and take a dip in the nearby pond.

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Walking back to where Peter’s life flashed before his eyes, we were in awe of just how close we really were. One of the keepers witnessed the whole thing and shared with us that she hadn’t seen Majel behave like that in many years. She asked that Peter not get close to the fence again because for some reason Majel did not like him. He may have reminded her of someone or some time in her life that she did not like. She didn’t necessarily want to eat him as they are very well fed by the keepers, but she definitely wanted him gone from her space. We were later told by another keeper that she was in heat. Peter has been known to have a very strong effect on females! 😉

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We left Majel to rest after that and continued on our way. Whew!! What an experience!