Whenever I visit the zoo there are always crowds around the big cat enclosures. Everyone loves lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, and cougars, and without fail someone always puts their child up to the glass and says "Look at the big kitties!"
But these "kitties" aren't like the ones back home. Each kind of big cat has been adapted by evolution in different ways to different habitats. They do share a lot in common with the domestic shorthairs that are playing at my feet as I write this introduction, but it is almost insulting to think of the world's remaining big cats as only "big kitties."
It is easy for people to do so in a place like a zoo. While the care zoos give to big cats in captivity has drastically improved during the last century, zoos are still places where we look at animals stripped of their wild nature. We admire their magnificence, yet a captive lion or tiger is just a shadow of their still-wild cousins. They are not tame, but neither are they wild. These photographs represent my attempts to distill some glimmers of wildness from the captive predators.
Science writer Brian Switek is the creator of Laelaps, a blog featuring his thoughts on paleontology, evolution, and the history of science. For more wonderful animal photographs taken by Brian this summer, check out his site.