Know When to Take a Breather
Sometimes during a performance, a tiger will do something potentially dangerous that’s not in the routine. When that happens, I offer verbal reassurance (“OK, calm down”), almost like you would to a pet or a toddler. If that doesn’t work, I try offering red meat (really). But if a cat becomes threatening, I leave the ring so she can relax, even if that leads to an awkward pause in the show. The idea of “the show must go on” is important in the circus community, but I’ve learned not to let that mantra dictate my behavior.
Tabayara Maluenda is an exotic-animal trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.