A headline today caught my eye: A New York man was hospitalized after he was mauled by a tiger. Even Alaska doesn’t get Tiger Maulings, so I had to investigate. It seems that a 25 year old from Mahopac, jumped off the Wild Asia Monorail ride at the Bronx Zoo, then leapt over an electric fence and into the tiger den. Rumor has it, the young man was doing a research paper on whether cats really do play with their food. Turns out that they do.
The story brought back fond memories of Binky. Binky was an orphaned polar bear cub rescued off Cape Beaufort and then sent to live at The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. He immediately became the zoo’s most popular attraction.
Cue the tourists:
Back in 1994, when I was still a young Cheechako, a 19 year old Binky made headline news. A tourist from Australia climbed over two protective fences to get right up to the bars of Binky’s enclosure to get a prime photograph of the bear. Instead, Binky quickly grabbed himself some prime photographer. The mauling was caught on tape, and I believe it is still available on youtube. The woman was eventually pulled away from the polar bear, although Binky was able to grab her shoe off her foot. He kept it for three days
Less than two months later, two teenagers (allegedly) went into the zoo after hours and decided to end a night of partying with a swim in the bears’ pool. They were stripping off their clothes near the bears’ enclosure, when one of the boys was grabbed by one of the bears. The second boy was able to pull his friend away from the bars, but not before he suffered severe lacerations to his legs. Although zoo officials said that they couldn’t be sure if it was Binky or Nuka, his mate, that mauled the 19 year old, Binky was the only bear with blood on its face.
Binky, already well regarded in Alaska, instantly became a Cult Hero. T-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers popped up everywhere, usually with the image of the bear & his trophy tennis shoe and the words: “Send more tourists— This one got away”. The entire state came out in defense of the Ornery Bear. There was sympathy towards the wounded, of course, but if you’re going to do something that stupid around a polar bear — well, you kind of got off lucky. The Fairbanks Firefighters Association, whose logo was a polar bear, even changed their logo to a polar bear holding a bloody shoe in its mouth, in order to show solidarity with the bear in Anchorage. They sold t-shirts with the new & improved logo for ten bucks.
Damn, I really wish I still had my Binky t-shirt.
Photo by Rob Layman