Thursday, September 23, 2010

George L. Mountainlion

George L. Mountainlion was, not surprisingly, a male mountain lion who lived at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Actually, there were several George L. Mountainlions, each named in order - George I, George II, George III and George IV - like members of a royal house. Here on this postcard, George II sits next to the memorial for George I. The first two Georges were hand-raised and remarkably tame. They bonded with their human friends and met Museum visitors while walking on leashes.

George was very popular and received lots of fan mail. On kid wrote him a letter that confessed, "This is the first time I have ever written to a lion." Probably not a necessary confession. I would  liked to meet the person who makes a habit of keeping lions as pen pals. 

Poor George I had hepatitis and died only two years after arriving at the museum. He died at the San Diego Zoo in 1953. Here's what Bill Carr, the founder of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, wrote for George's memorial:

I freely give all sights and sounds of nature I have known to those who have the grace to enjoy not man-made materialism but God-made beauty.

The magnificent Arizona sunsets I have watched from my enclosure, I bequeath to all who see not only with their eyes but with their hearts.

To humans who are tired, worried or discouraged, I bequeath the silence, majesty and peace of the Great American Desert.

To those walk the trails, I bequeath the early morning voices of the birds and the glory of the flowering desert in the Springtime.

To the children who have enjoyed seeing me purr, and watching me turn my somersaults, I offer the precious gift of laughter and joy. The world so needs these things.

And lastly, I bequeath my own happy spirit and affection for others, to all who may remember me and my museum where for three years, I did my best to show people that I truly liked them. 

It's probably not a good idea to bring tame, large predatory animals around people and American museums and zoos don't do that very much anymore. Though these animals become "ambassadors for their species," introducing them to the general population endangers the animal and people. Where large predators are concerned, there's a fine line between the type of fear that keeps us safe in the back country and the type of fear that leads to the extermination of valuable species; the first is to be encourage and the latter, discouraged. I understand all this, but I sure would have liked to have met George and scratched his chin. He's reported to have liked that; it made him purr.

Here's a recent story on George from the Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson newspaper.

1 comment:

Project Cat said...


I want to go back to the desert museum, even if there's no George to scritch beneath the chin. For now I shall have to content myself with scritching my house-cats beneath their chins for their purrs.