Note: this article first appeared as a guest blog post in Scientific American.
From our science correspondent AA.
AA: We’re in a cave at an undisclosed location on the Himalayas, interviewing Ms. Lilypad, a saber tooth tiger. Ms. Lilypad, what made you agree to this interview after your species has lived incognito for literally millennia?
LP: I got tired listening to the TED goombahs going on and on about de-extinction. So I decided to write my memoirs. Why should everyone get rich and famous but us?
AA: Were you able to find agent representation?
LP: (Extends a claw towards an avalanche of printouts). They’re falling all over themselves, but most are suggesting chewtoys as royalties. What do they take us for, wolves?
AA: Everyone thought you’d gone extinct. How did you manage to survive?
LP: We had to leave yaks alone, couldn’t afford to arouse suspicions. We scraped along by carefully harvesting yetis — and the occasional climbing expedition when things got really lean. Though humans are more trouble than they’re worth, with all that extra stuff to remove. Do you know how bad GoreTex tastes? Plus it wreaks havoc with our digestion.
AA: How did you manage to escape detection, especially after the advent of sophisticated surveillance technologies?
LP: Whenever we crossed in front of one of those silly hidden cameras, we clapped a paw over our fangs. The National Geographic doofuses thought we were Siberian tigers (snickers and grooms her whiskers).
AA: Are the others in your group on board with breaking cover after all this time?
LP: Most are. The warmup made the yeti population plummet. Also made them tougher to chew. We’re all looking forward to real food, like mammoth steaks (starts opening a jar of horseradish sauce).
AA: But if you eat mammoths, you’ll drive them back into extinction!
LP: Do you want to have an unregulated mammoth population explosion? If we don’t do our part, they’ll trample everything into mud! (Sniffs the horseradish sauce, wrinkles her nose). Besides, you’re a fine one to talk. Rapacious bipeds.
AA: Point taken. Where would you prefer to live, given a choice?
LP: The Siberian cousins tell us things look pretty grim up there. Similar reports from the Polar Bear Bureau on Greenland and Nunavut. Antarctica has a good food supply, though the habitat… We considered zoos but the photos look awful. I mean, aluminum bathtubs? Circuses are better – at least you get to do something. So we got proactive, put together a proposal for cleanup services. Sent it to big-city mayors.
AA: What was the response?
LP: Guarded. On the other hand, we got eager queries from cartels and military leaders.
AA: How much territory would you require?
LP: Something the size of Rhode Island. (Pause). Per tiger.
AA: Would you consent to being part of scientific investigations? Experimentations?
LP: We’re flexible. But after watching a few episodes of Nova, we’re really wary. Some things are off the list for sure. Ixnay to tranquilizer darts and forced mating. (Eyes correspondent’s arm) Mind if I test the horseradish sauce on you?
AA: Bad idea.
LP: Ok. (Grumbles under her breath).
AA: What do you think of the transhumanists’ ideas about uplift?
LP: We saber tooth tigers are already as uplifted as we want and need to be.
AA: What about their concept of turning predators into loving vegetarians?
LP: Send them over, we can discuss this face to face (starts opening a jar of wasabi). Send over the guys who think that tiger parts cure impotence, while you’re at it.
AA: Speaking of that, have you had cubs of your own?
LP: A few. Hard to find nice males with a decent genetic pedigree. Plus they try to expand into your territory afterwards, as if one mating gives them lifelong rights (growls). Also hard to teach the cubs good hunting habits, with all the skulking and hiding we’ve had to do.
AA: Are you looking forward to becoming part of the world?
LP: We do the live-and-let-live thing, everyone’s happy.
AA: By the way, isn’t Lilypad an odd name for a top-of-the-chain predator?
LP: My mom named me after the tiger in Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ Animal Wife, whose pawprints looked like water lily leaves. (Purrs). She read a lot – winters here are long!
On the right: Lilypad stealthily concealing her giveaway fangs (photo: Peter Cassidy, staff photographer).
Related: Interview with a Yeti