Did you hear that? It's the sound a tiger makes when he wakes up in the morning. It's also the sound Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin makes when he gets up in the morning, because he wishes he were a tiger. But he is not. Not at all. He is a mere human man--a powerful human man, but a man all the same--and can only receive the striped jungle cats as birthday presents and hold conferences in St. Petersburg on how to save them from extinction, like the one going on this week. As The New York Times explains, Putin is hardly the first world leader to be enamored with a charismatic feline. Writes Leslie Kaufman:
Throughout history, prominent men have identified with the majesty, power and machismo of large cats.But what of the puppy formerly known as Yorgo?
“Leaders especially like to think of themselves as having the virtues of large cats,” said Stephen R. Kellert, a professor emeritus and senior research scholar at Yale University who studies human-animal relationships. “They like the image of the stand-alone, solitary yet fearsome hunter.”
Kent Redford, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Institute, said that through history leaders had used the ownership and domination of wild cats to demonstrate their power — a tradition continued today by some drug lords.
“The control of an uncontrollable power is a symbol of individual leadership and therefore strength,” Dr. Redford said.
That dynamic certainly seems to describe Mr. Putin’s relationship to tigers.