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 (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?
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.
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