Don’t be an Idiot with Dangerous Animals

You’ve probably heard of the Darwin Awards. They aren’t prestigious, but people are dying to receive them. In fact, you have to die to get a Darwin Award. You have to do something “extraordinarily idiotic” to bring about your own demise, thus improving the gene pool and giving the human species a better chance for long-term survival. That’s what the award creator says anyway, but removing stupidity from the human gene pool is like removing guns from an NRA convention.

Among recent Darwin Award winners was a 49-year-old Maryland man who had kept 124 snakes, including rattlesnakes, cobras, black mambas and a 14-foot-long Burmese python, inside his house. One of the snakes, unfortunately, got out of its cage and ensured that its owner would not get to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Keeping so many dangerous snakes in your home does seem to qualify as “extraordinarily idiotic,” but the world has no shortage of humans eager to provoke wild animals and earn themselves Darwin Awards. Some of them fall short, but they just need to keep trying. You can’t win an award lying down. Except this one, of course.

Just a week or so ago, a zoo attendant in Jamaica stuck his finger into a chain-linked cage to touch a lion, apparently showing off to onlookers and ignoring the animal’s snarls. I’m not sure what the lion was thinking, but two words come to mind: FEEDING TIME!

A lion’s jaws are very powerful and pulling your finger out of them is like pulling a cellphone from a teenager. Needless to say, the poor man lost part of his finger. He won’t be nominated for a Darwin Award, but as long as he works at a zoo, there’ll be many more opportunities.

This seems like a good time for me to make a public service announcement: “Please do not put your fingers into the cage of a lion, even if you believe the lion is scrawny and not getting enough protein. Please do not insert any other body parts either. This includes your toes, your nose and your tongue. If you feel that you have too many fingers and wish to donate one of them, please contact your local hospital’s transplant department.”

Unfortunately, some people are driven to be “extraordinarily idiotic,” even going to the extent of climbing over safety fences, as a 27-year-old man did last December at Naples Zoo in Florida. Upon reaching the enclosure of a Malayan tiger, the man stuck his arm through the fence. I don’t know what he was thinking, but this seems like a good time for me to make another public service announcement: “Please do not put your arm into the enclosure of a tiger, even if your mother brought you up to be polite and to shake everyone’s hand. Tigers should not be provoked, whether they’re in a zoo, in a jungle or playing professional golf.”

The 8-year-old male tiger, as you can imagine, treated the man’s arm like a hunk of meat thrown into his cage. He grabbed the arm in his jaws and tried to pull it through the fence. Police were called to the scene, fired a shot and the poor tiger was a victim of human idiocy. The man survived, but I don’t know the condition of his arm, whether it’s like his brain or still functional.

It’s worth noting that the tiger’s enclosure had an 8-foot-high fence, topped with three strands of barbed wire. On the outside of the fence was a sign that said: “DANGER AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.”

It’s hard to find fault with the zoo, which took many precautions to prevent such a tragedy, but perhaps the sign could have been worded differently: “KEEP OUT! ANYONE WHO GOES BEYOND THIS POINT WILL BE CONSIDERED LUNCH!”

Lions, tigers and other big cats have been involved in more than 300 incidents in America since 1990, according to the Humane Society. Dozens of people have lost their limbs and several have lost their lives. It’s important to note, however, that Americans, despite their best efforts, do not have a monopoly on “extraordinarily idiotic.” 

Visitors to zoos and national parks in India, China and many other countries have also tried hard to win Darwin Awards. Please try not to give them any competition, even if it means never using the “off” button on your brain.

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