Why do they have to die?
Sing Phloy was the third lion I’ve lost but it hurts as bad as the first two – the death of my Nala and Rocky.
A kind fellow volunteer from the Tiger Temple in Thailand just confirmed the death of Phloy to me last night and I feel so… empty.
Phloy would have been 8 years old next month, at the prime of her life.
But they say a cobra bit her. And she’s gone, just like that.
She was always so playful. She would have tried to mess around with all creepy crawlies in her enclosure. Not her bro, Sing Phet. He’d give a hooding cobra the widest berth.
When I first met these two, as a volunteer atTiger Temple, they hated people and were on a “no physical contact protocol”. We were told they were confiscated from a rich guy who abused them and imprisoned them in a dark, tiny room.
So I wasn’t expecting miracles when I started visiting them. I just sat unmoving in one corner of their cage and hummed. I was surprised when they padded up to me like curious kids.
Phloy has always been bolder than Phet. When I breathe on her face gently, she tosses her head then touches her nose to mine. Like my tigers, she licks crushed milk tablets from my hands, invents games between us and plays as if there’s no tomorrow.
Her brother didn’t know what to do when I offered him crushed milk tablets on my palms and mewed like a befuddled housecat. Phloy washed the milk powder clean from my hand in a snap.
Phloy allows me to stroke her paws and likes being talked to but doesn’t want to share me with her brother at first. Eventually, she would lay down beside me and sleep.
Phet snuggles with us. But I noticed that while his sister and I slept face-to-face, he always orients his body outward to watch the path that people and other animals take. He stays awake and alert as we sleep, pricking his ears at every rustle, rising to patrol and secure our area before returning to lie down with us again.
Phet always did his duty faithfully, protecting his sister and me the way a proper lion guards his pride females in the wild.
These lions made me feel so privileged, so loved.
I wanted to visit them and my tigers earlier. I was in Bangkok ten days before Phloy died. But I was so tired and still had an upcoming half-month trip in NYC to plan. So, I wasn’t able to say a final goodbye to her.
I can’t imagine never seeing you again, Phloy! How I wish to comfort you, Phet, after you lost your dearest sister! I’m afraid for you…so scared you won’t have the will to go on, day after day, with no one to argue with, no one to cuddle with at night…
And with the turmoil now gripping the temple, I’m so worried about my other cats as well… all my beloved tigers, Dao Ruang, Hernfa, Sairung, Saifa, Big Mek, Phayak, Fadang, Han, Chomnapah, Saengtawan, Fakram 1 and Nanfa – who were already adults when I volunteered there…
And my big babies all grown up now, Darika 2, Vayo2, Yak-Yak, Farung, Famai, Daluk, Dawi, Weha and the cub whose birth I witnessed, Saeng’s son, Lucky… I know his sibling, Happy died…as well as Saifa’s bro, Phayu and Dao’s original mate, the gentle Techo…I don’t know where the original Mek, Darika and Vayo have gone…
The temple keeps 145 tigers now, but how can I forget the ones I took care of? The ones who stole my heart?
They seemed so far away…I don’t know what will happen to them now…Where will they go when authorities haul them off the temple? Will they just be slaughtered because they are old, or sick and no facility could want them because they are hybrids or simply because no one has the funds for extra mouths to feed?
I pray they’re still alive and well…that no harm befalls them.
I owe them so much, the big cats of the temple.
My life became so much richer because a Gir lioness loved me, my sweet playful Phloy.