An Interview with Rajah



Thanks for talking with us, Rajah. How long have you lived here at Finley Memorial Zoo?

I’ve been here since I was a cub and I’m almost 20 now, so I’m what you might call an old timer.

You must have seen a lot of changes here at the zoo. Can you tell us about them?

The food’s better, there’s a nice heated mat in my den, and it’s gotten more entertaining. You never know what those keepers are going to come up with next. I go outside in the morning and have to check the entire place out. Always some bit of meat where you’d least expect it. Once I found goldfish in the pond. Sometimes it’s catnip. And the weird smells they squirt here and there! Fascinating stuff.

Do you get along well with the keepers?

They start out green as grass and I bring them along. I liked that Iris, but she’s not around much anymore. Linda is OK, too, but Arnie’s kind of a jerk. He hosed me once when I didn’t clear out of my den fast enough to please him. A tiger doesn’t forget that, let me tell you. Yes, Iris was the best. Always good for a little scratching on the cheek, some conversation. And we had a nice deal going, where she would give me extra meat if I did little things for her. I’d go up close to the bars and open my mouth and let her poke around t my teeth with a pointy stick. Or stand up on the bars and let her mess with my front paws. I didn’t mind as long as I got those meat balls. Linda’s learned the same deal, but I liked Iris’s way of doing things.

I see you live alone. Do you miss being with other tigers?

Not much. My brother and I came here from the zoo where we were born. He was good company. We used to wrestle in the pool and chase those big Boomer balls. Of course, the most fun was when a peacock would screw up and land in our outside yard. Feathers flying every which way. Ah, those were good times… He died a couple years ago. And at my age, a quiet life is just fine. I only wish those damn lions lived on the other side of the zoo. Noisy thugs. Always wrangling and roaring. And they stink. Let me tell you, as neighbors go, they have got to be—

I understand they killed a keeper not too long ago.

That was a wild night. Lot of growling and snarling. It’s not like they share with each other. The smells… [Editor's note: See Night Kill by Ann Littlewood for details.]

What would you do if a keeper fell into your exhibit?

Don’t you forget, missy, I’m still a tiger and I’ve got all my teeth, every one. My ancestors from the old country--a few of them--think one mammal's as good a meal as another when you’re down on your luck. Or when opportunity strikes.

Um, do you think you’d rather be in the wild than here at the zoo?

Hard to say, since I’ve spent my whole life in a zoo. It sounds great to wander and hunt and hang out with the ladies, but I understand it’s gotten pretty rough out there. I’m a Bengal, my family’s from India. I hear there’re not a lot of tigers left in Asia and the numbers keep going down. Some outfit is trying to help out, but it still has me worried. And anyway, at my age, change is hard. As a matter of fact, it’s about my nap time. Pleasure talking with you…

Thank you so much for your time, sir. Listeners, tune in next month for ….

Editor’s note: “The outfit” Rajah was referring to is



For more about Rajah, Iris Oakley, and Finley Memorial Zoo, order Night Kill from your independent bookstore or click here to order from Powell's Books or


Did Not Survive, the second "zoo-dunnit," is available through bookstores everywhere. Trade paperback, hardcover, large print, and audio versions are available. Order Did Not Survive now from your independent bookstore or click here to order from Powell's Books or