Otis Lee, the big tiger at EFRC who lived with Baby the lioness in the enclosure with the pond, died on Tuesday.
I think this image, originally taken on April 22, 2004 (and later cropped and lightly enhanced) is the best photo I've ever taken.
Otie was never a friendly tiger; the best I could look forward to from him was civility. I only got that when I learned to respect him properly, and a habit that I'd developed for that was to call him "Mr. Awesome". Which was appropriate. He was not the heaviest tiger at EFRC, but I think he was the biggest before some of the young ones grew to full size. Even though he never liked me (or, as far as I know, any human), I felt considerable admiration and some affection for him. So when I saw how wasted he looked, and how dispirited he was acting, the last time I was there (Sunday, June 8), I was fairly sure he was dying, and I made a point of taking a few pictures of him.
I wish my impression had been wrong, but he did not get better. He was anesthetized and examined in EFRC's clinic, and the vet found that he had an incurable, terminal fungal infection in his lungs. He seemed to be suffering, so they euthanized him on June 17.
In this picture, he seems to be resting comfortably, but the fact that he's calmly watching me while I'm taking his picture is a sign that the spark has gone out of him. He never liked people standing close to him and taking pictures.
Here's a closeup of his face.
This rather crummy shot is significant because it's the last photo I ever took of him.
Another bit of light is gone from my world.