The question isn’t why lions want to eat your children. It’s why your children aren’t smart enough to run

Thanks to Slate (“news for nervous upper-class white people, since 1996!”), I discovered today that there is a whole little niche of parents posting videos to YouTube showing lions trying to eat their children.

Before you flip out, note that I said trying to eat their children. Trying and failing, because the lions are behind thick glass walls in zoos.

Videos like this:

And this:

And this (which can’t be embedded, ugh).

Doing the kind of investigative research they are famous for, Slate asked an expert on lions why lions appear to want to eat your baby. The answer, shockingly, is that to a lion, your child looks delicious.

Lions, it turns out, like playing with their food. Craig Packer of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota noted that while “some of the lions look quite playful in their attempts … sometimes lions and cheetah will spend several minutes playing with wildebeest calves or gazelle fawns before finally chomping them.” He added that “predators generally treat calves/fawns/babies differently from adults because they are such easy prey; there’s no real chance of escape, so what’s the hurry?”

All of which makes total sense. Lions are apex predators; babies are not.

But the question that got me wondering wasn’t why the lions wanted to eat the babies. It was why the babies don’t freak out when a lion looks like it wants to eat them.

I mean, I know why you and I don’t freak out when we see a lion behind a glass wall in a zoo — we understand that the lion can’t get through the glass wall. But a baby doesn’t have that kind of understanding of the world, does it? So why do all these babies look totally unconcerned that the jaws of a gigantic beast are inches from their tiny heads? Shouldn’t evolution have weeded that kind of blissful ignorance out of our species long ago?

As with most things, comedian Louis CK has a wise answer for this question. Babies burble happily when confronted with slavering predators, he explains, because we’ve managed to screw up evolution:

When we don’t have predators to worry about, we get lazy. And that leads to babies who are not terrified by lions.

So there you go! The solution to modern America’s problems: fewer glass walls, more lions.

P.S. Like that Louis CK bit? He’s selling three full-length concert recordings as DRM-free digital downloads on his web site for just $5 each. Buy them now, you can thank me later.


Brian M

May 29, 2012
10:08 am

Of course its not that we have ‘managed to screw up evolution’ its that our evolution took a different turn well before lions came on the scene. Humans evolved learned behaviour, giving a greater ability to adapt. Its that’s very feature that puts the lion behind the glass and not the baby!


July 13, 2012
11:36 pm

the human babys react based on their parents reactions

it has nothing to do with human baby’s loseing the ability to be afraid of something like lions

the parents are not afraid so the baby is not afraid