No, this isn’t one of those photos depicting a flashy blur in the background, while something speeds past the lens. This is the stare of a half-blind white tiger.
This is Angelo, five years old, suffering from progressive retinal atrophy. This means he’s seeing less and less as the moths roll by. His world, you might say, is disappearing right in front of his eyes. And it is, in more ways than one.
White tigers are rare. That’s why hunters will pay a mountain of money to shoot them. Angelo was, in fact, earmarked for a canned hunt in another country, when his transfer to South Africa was arranged by an anonymous sponsor in 2008. Since then, he’s been the guest at an animal rescue centre in the Western Cape, where he celebrated his fifth birthday yesterday.
White tigers are the result of a recessive gene that manifests itself once in 10,000 births, The last one seen in the wild, was in 1959. They are mostly bred for the entertainment of humans, and are popular in zoos and circuses. It is estimated that there are between 1000 to 1500 of these tigers in the world. In general, the world’s population of all tigers seems to be in the region of 4000 in total.
So why term this photograph of Angelo as fleeting?
Because, like rhinos, we have the privilege of still having them around. A single generation further in the future may not have these animals around any more. We humans have seen to that.
That’s why it’s fleeting – the last opportunity to glimpse a species that numbered more than 100,000 a century ago.
Man, we are so good at destroying beauty, aren’t we?