The Tigress and the Actress

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

Rosy the tigress was among the best behaved animals in the Zoo and would be normally tied to a peg near the tiger house from where she could and would greet passers by. She only got a little excited when the trash collector passed by which consisted of a cart pulled by a buffalo bull – the bull would pass by nonchalantly but the tigress would do a minor rock and roll to the accompaniment of a minor roar! She would greet me on my rounds with some purring which entitled her a daily dose of patting and scratching under her chin, she would reward me with a prickly (her whiskers) kiss on both cheeks.

Well all these acts did not go unnoticed and were known and witnessed by my close friends who came to visit me and my charges at the zoo. Among these friends was a lady who worked for the UNESCO and a great animal lover - who also kept a large number of dogs as pets in her palatial home – she was one of my great admirers and there by hangs a tale.

You all must have heard of the famous Hollywood actress Liv Ullmann who recently visited Delhi for a film festival. Some years back she was the UNESCO ambassador –at-large to the children of the world and was visiting Delhi. Well my friend at the UNESCO told her a number of my animal stories and also casually mentioned about this tigress who also enjoyed a drive in a jeep and got by passers wondering whether they were seeing things that did not exist .ie. a tiger in the back of a jeep!

My friend and Ms Ullmann came to visit the Zoo and was very excited to see and pat the tigress. I tried to tell her that the animal could be a little rough some times but she very keen to meet my friend Rosy.

It was a bright morning and all three of us went to see the tigress –I introduced the actress to Rosy and she allowed the actress to pet her and scratch her under her chin .Rosy let out some furr furr purring sounds and I thought every thing was ok .but suddenly to my dismay Rosy stood up on her hind feet and put her fore paws on Ms.Ullmann’s shoulders. This was too much of a weight for her and she fell backwards on to the soft grass with the tigress right on top of her. I thought this is the end and had visions of the tigress tearing up the actress! I on my part jumped on top of the tiger and pulled her off from the lady but the tigress looked at me with a quizzical expression as if to say –Did you ever think that I would harm a friend of yours?

Ms Ullmann was not hurt as the grass around her was lush and soft but she was quite shaken to say the least. I must say to her advantage that she regained her composure soon enough aided by some hot coffee which she graciously accepted to have at my home.

She even wrote a nice letter thanking me and volunteering her services if I ever needed an actress at the Zoo.

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