Ted's teaching tips

28th January 2000 at 00:00
A magnificently powerful and beautiful beast, but also a ruthless killer, the tiger provokes contradictory emotions in us: fear, respect, admiration, awe, affection even. This picture raises many questions, especially about the nature of the food chain and how animals, ourselves included, manage to survive.

Food chains and webs

What does this picture have to do with a "food chain" (shows a typical pattern: plants contain energy so they are eaten by a herbivore, the deer, which is then devoured in turn by a carnivore, the tiger)? What other food chains are there (sometimes a lower carnivore, such as a meat-eating bird, can be killed by a higher carnivore, such as a big cat; parasites - for instance, mistletoe, lice - can also enter the food chain, living off plants and animals; complex food webs exist when there are several linked chains)? Where do we figure in the food chain or web (high up, as we eat both plants and animals and are the most prolific killers on the planet)?

The tiger

Where do tigers live (endangered species, only a few thousand left, mainly in India, Indo-china and Siberia)? What do you think about the tiger? Magnificent, beautiful creature? dangerous killer? powerful and awesome? Should tigers be kept in zoos so we can see them? Why do tigers often appeal to children (for instance, used in adverts, often portrayed as "fun", like Tigger)? Are they made to appear joly so children won't be afraid of them?


Look at the tiger in the picture. It is only young, so it looks worried that someone might steal its food. Write a description of it as the photographer sees it (powerful yet vulnerable, rippling, sleek, beautiful, muscled, vigilant). Then pretend you are the young tiger and describe what you are thinking as you have to hunt to survive in a cruel world.


The raw red-clawed reality of survival in the wild shown in this picture provokes debate about nature.


We have to be aggressive. In the wild you would not survive if you were a wimp. Animals such as tigers do what comes naturally: they are meat eaters, so they have to kill or die. They often pick out the old, or the slow, so that helps other species, as the fittest survive and the weakest perish. It's "dog eat dog" in human life too. If you don't push yourself you won't get on. Others will thrive at work, but you will go under.


Even in the wild, creatures control their aggression. Dogs snarl at each other, but often avoid fights. In humans, uncontrolled aggression is dangerous, leading to road accidents when drivers try to outdo each other, or fights and wars instead of sensible negotiation. Children must learn to channel aggression into something acceptable, such as sports and competitions, ambition, or helping others.

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