Captive Beauty : Sumatran Tiger

2016-02-28SumatranTiger5589© Dwight Lutsey

Shadow Dreaming. That’s what appears to be the activity this afternoon for this rare protected Sumatran tiger. Once again we delve into our files to bring you an image from our Captive Beauty series. This is Besar, a Sumatran tiger currently residing at the Denver Aquarium with his two companions Jalan and Marah. He is one of only 300 Sumatran tigers left in this world. To say the Sumatran tiger is endangered is to utter a colossal understatement.

Fortunately there are organizations that are working feverishly to protect and save these rare incredible tigers. They are now under the umbrella of the SSP, Species Survival Plan under the auspices of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). To qualify for protection from these organizations an animal must be critically endangered in the wild and just preserving its habitat in the wild will not help its population numbers. The Sumatran tiger more than qualifies.

Besar may be dreaming of wild places he has never seen himself, or possibly just taking in the dappled light of the afternoon sun, but whichever it is he is a beautiful example of his species. One that must be protected from extinction at all costs.

As I’ve noted before, my agenda here, if you want to call it that, is not to debate animals in captivity, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, but to present those animals in a way that shows their strengths and character as well as their beauty. Which is why these posts are always titled “Captive Beauty.” And there is no denying that these rare or endangered animals are beautiful.

If you’re new to the blog or just want to see past posts of other captive beauties, just enter Captive Beauty into the search box at the top of the page and check them out.

2016 Yellowstone Summer Games


Every four years Yellowstone National Park puts on its very own Summer Games. This is similar to, but larger in scope, than the summer Olympics that occur for the human games, as it includes the entire park and all of its year-round inhabitants. Everyone participates according to their skill level and choice of events. We intend to periodically feature some of the participants as they train and get ready to win the gold.

This week we look in on little Ms. Lindsey Vethouf as she and her trainer mother, Constance Vethouf, get ready for Lindsey’s participation in the Synchronized Swimming event. This event is one of the most popular and watched events of the entire games as it features close to 75 young cow elk swimming together in synchronized patterns in the deep pool area of the Firehole river. Lindsey although young for her age is an experienced river forder and is expected to place very highly in this event if not win it outright.

Normally this area would be full of tourists swimming and trying desperately not to be  swept over the 40′ falls just downstream in Firehole canyon, but for the Summer Games this area is closed to the public so the elk swimmers can train daily and finally compete in this important venue. This is a limited access event and as such does not have formal seating constructed, no bleachers or skyboxes have been built as the edge of the roadway past this area is only inches from the sheer drop-off, so the spectators must find their own way out onto the sheer cliffs that line the pool area and locate something sturdy to cling to as they view the events. The small risk of losing their footing and plunging down in the pool area is outweighed by the excitement of watching this spectacular bunch of young elk athletes perform their intricate maneuvers.

In the picture above you see Constance Vethouf adjusting Lindsey’s fur to make sure it lies flat and shows itself as a fetching pelt, which helps not only with water resistance but aids in her ability to stay buoyant as she performs some of the routines that require her to float on her back. Constance, herself a medal winning Synchronized Swimmer having won the Bronze in the 2008 games, has a huge amount of knowledge to pass on to Lindsey. Everything from showing her the correct grass to eat to maintain her weight, yet have the energy it takes to stay in that cold water for the long hours of practice, to how to keep her head above water and not to lose points for gasping, spitting and looking like she is drowning when she is occasionally forced under water due to some of the more rigorous routines.

The games are shaping up to be even more spectacular than in preceding years and if you are lucky enough to get tickets for this event, remember to bring Crampons, Pitons, and a tested climbing rope as well as snacks and non-perishable water, as much of the seating requires technical climbing to reach. Watch for further posts as we feature more of this years Yellowstone Summer Games hopefuls as they train and dream of the Gold.


Golden Days


What a difference a few months make. It was just six months ago and this bull elk was on top of the world, figuratively and literally. He was in his prime, he had bested every challenger that approached him and he had his pick of the cows. This was his time. Life couldn’t get any better for him.

That was then. Since those heady days he has faced a hard long winter. The snow has been deep, foraging hard, and his strength and weight has been depleted after a stressful rut. He is still lugging around nearly 40 pounds of antlers and has been throughout the winter. He needs to eat a lot to maintain the strength to hold his head up. Mid-March is when he normally sheds his antlers and it’s not a moment too soon for him.

A fellow named Kolten Banks was lucky enough to film an elk shedding his antlers. “Tines Up” a Utah-based hunting guide service, shared the footage this week. Here’s a link to the video.

Like the guy in the video says “How freakin’ cool is that?” Since this bull has made it this far there is a good chance he’ll make it to antler shedding time, and if he stays clear of the wolf packs he’ll soon be putting his weight back on, and will be busy growing a new set of antlers for the Fall.

This is a Yellowstone bull photographed a few miles outside of Mammoth. Judging by the size of his harem, which is grazing just outside of this frame, he did pretty good this past fall. But each year they all start fresh and there are always new young bulls with something to prove so the battles will be epic, as always.


Double Dog Dare Ya

DoubleDogDare6650click image to enlarge

Rog mom said we weren’t to get this close to the edge unless she was with us.

Yeah she always says stuff like that. Look how cool it is down there.

It looks awful steep to me. Remember when you fell and rolled halfway down the hill. It wasn’t nearly as steep as this.

Gyp you are such a wuss. My foot slipped. Besides it was fun. Let’s go down there.

NO way. Last time you pulled something like this mom didn’t let us have any milk for a whole day.

Gyp, I dare ya.

NO Rog, no flippin’ way

Gyp, I double dog dare ya.

Un uhn, that’s not working this time, Rog, you want to go down there, you go. But if you do I’m telling.

Ok, then I’m calling you sissy, and in front of that little lamb you like.

Don’t go down there Rog. How you going to get back up. You’ll fall. I’m telling you. Rog don’t, Oh man, Rog come on, I’ll let you go first at the nursing station. Rog…

Ma! Rog went over the side. I can’t see him anymore. Ma!   Ma!


Yellowstone Diorama


This idyllic scene of a herd of grazing buffalo in the Lamar valley is not what it seems. It is a specially constructed life-size model prepared by our master dioramaticians here at *The Institute. Many of our readers know that there are many divisions, departments, sections, areas, teams, worker bees and bee-ettes, programs, units, centers, groups, systems, agencies, bureaus, commissions, that make up The Institute. We even have an office just to keep track of all the different divisions, departments etc. where important work is done.

One of our lesser known departments is the bureau of Procurement, Construction and Installation of Dioramas or PCID as it’s known in the trade. It is there that we make the amazing dioramas that you see in many of our National Parks and other places where they don’t have adequate scenic areas for the public to view.

If a National Park or even a scenic-poor state such as Utah or parts of Arizona want to dress up their highway systems with dramatic views they will contact The Institute where we will develop a plan to add interest along some of their more desolate roads, thereby transforming those roads into revenue-producing Scenic Byways. The State or National Park then has the option of adding roadside stands, local entrepreneurs, and whatever local color they think might add interest.

Another use for our patented, modular, fade-resistant, weatherproof dioramas allows game-poor parks such as Yellowstone National Park to have animals in scenic environments on demand for those times when the live animals are not present or have been killed off by local residents around the park.

Our unique but uncanny ability to mimic local conditions, coupled with incredible taxidermy techniques allow our experts to create dioramas such as this Diorama of a buffalo herd along the roadside in the Lamar valley, that defy detection by anyone cruising by it at 45 – 60 mph. Plus our patented Extend-A-View ™ Dioramas let us create dioramas that can extend for several miles along an otherwise dull and boring road, keeping the occupants interested and thinking of lunch or possibly souvenirs of the amazing “Scenery” they are passing by. We can also supply a more complete package with our dioramas that include a complete line of scenery specific souvenirs, knock-down roadside stands, trained actors that can simulate the local culture and color, plus accessories such as a live horse that can be tied to the side of one of our retail units providing sure-fire traffic stopping appeal. Other animals available upon request.

No detail is spared when you order one of our complete dioramas. The diorama above, our deluxe Buffalo Extravaganza, includes approximately 1800 full size American Made, Plains or Mountain Buffalo, each with life-like glass eyes and true-to-life coloring, plus a large assortment of cottonwood trees all with drip tube watering systems, or if necessary due to budget constraints, these trees can be constructed of a special weather-resistant Paper Mache guaranteed for 3 years, and our own proprietary turf made of recycled tires.

Many of you have driven by our dioramas and didn’t realize it. Those of you who have visited Zion National Park and marveled at the Desert Bighorn sheep located near the tunnel at the east side of the park will be surprised to know that was our model “Desert Bighorns and Laser-etched Rock Formation #66903”. Or perhaps you have been to the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway in the Rocky mountains where you will have seen one of our largest installations, the “Mountain Goat and Craggy Scary Drop-off Cliff  installation,  #994216-a”. We provided all the natural looking gray boulders that litter the mountainside and installed close to 3000 life-like Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep all over the 14,000’+ mountain, some of them animatronic in nature to provide movement and interest for those hardy tourists wheezing by the side of the road.

We are currently working on a secret installation of a completely different nature than we have ever attempted before, for a not to be named city near Puget sound. The parameters so far are for us to provide a complete aquatic diorama that will include sea life such as ship-resistant whales and animatronic Orcas, or killer whales, that can do tricks such as flip baby seals into the air and catch them in their mouths, plus many other items too numerous to mention. Estimated date of installation will be early 2019.

The next time you’re on a vacation in Yellowstone and see some spectacular looking scenery look for the little brass plaques saying “This Scenery provided by The Institute” to the trees and other hard surfaces and give one of our buffalo a good rap in the side to see how life-like it feels. You’ll be surprised.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Nature’s Graffiti


Once upon a wall in a city far, far away, Mother Nature let her hair down and went crazy with her spray cans. You don’t often think of her as a tagger but in this case she saw an empty wall and went for it. Usually she works with earth tones or pastels and sometimes a simple black and white, but every once in a while, maybe after a long weekend in Key West or after watching the Hindu festival of colors, she really hangs one on.

This image is a collection of colors you don’t often see together. They’re not wrong, although they may be a little jarring to someone with a more sensitive palette, they just give you pause to look more closely at them and wonder. What was on her mind when she layered that bright vivid lime green against that orange-ish red. Then to add that tracery of greys and off white to soften all that open space to the left plus add the deep intense scarlet of the berries as a counterpoint, it just shows that she has the chops to pull off anything she wants to do and make you like it. Or at least make me like it, your mileage may vary.

Lots of us are still seeing the white on dirty white of old snow and the dull grey of two month old ice on the sidewalks, so this is a breath of fresh air, color-wise. The city is Santa Fe which can almost pull this look off all by itself but in any event it’s an invigorating view on a cold winter’s day. Got to remember that it is only 31 shopping days to the Spring equinox and then some of us are going to start seeing sights like this for real. Think Spring.