Wednesday, January 13, 2010

[Mayank] LION!

It happened while we were in Ol' Pejeta Conservancy collecting pictures of Zebras for machine learning. The plan was simple: collect multiple pictures of the same Zebra, from different angles, so that we can train an algorithm to tell Zebras apart by looking at photographs -- nothing spectacularly out of the ordinary, so it was only Dan, Tanya, Qing, and myself in the car on the 1.5 hour expedition from Mpala to Ol' Pejeta.

And then, around dusk, we drove right past it on an off-road trail.

The stimulus in the brain starts off as a mild reaction. "Oh, a lion," you think to yourself nonchalantly, while adjusting the wide-brimmed hat you bought at the airport. And then someone yells "Lion!", the car screeches to a halt, and a hard and heavy lump forms in your throat.

This one was about 5 meters away from us, casually walking along the side of the road, completely oblivious to our existence. It accidentally made eye contact with us, but it looked right through. Not an ounce of fear, not a shred of deference, not a smidgen of uncertainty in those eyes. It walked along the road with us, slinky like a ramp model, a deceptively tame beastie carrying giant chompers of death. Lesser mortals would have soiled themselves.

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