The eye of the tiger...

tue cool cat Zambar : picture Lynne Gorrie
tue cool cat Zambar : picture Lynne Gorrie
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Tiger – tiler? – burning bright... amateur photographer Lynne Gorrie is going her bit for Blackpool Zoo’s Tile for a Tiger campaign.

It’s her work you see today including that splendid shot of Zambar the Amur Tiger looking very laid back. Her pictures would measure up against any wildlife photographer’s work but what makes it all the more remarkable is the fact that Lynne uses just one hand and has very limited mobility down her right side.

Lynne doesn’t even need to ask Zambar to watch the birdie to pose for a shot. “He’s the most obliging animal when it comes to pictures,” she admits.

And while he’s no scaredy cat Zambar always gives Lynne a reassuring “gruff”, as she puts it, in greeting when she arrives outside his enclosure.

It’s a cross between a grrr and a huff and keepers explain it means in tiger talk “I mean you no harm.”

Lynne also reckons it means “I’m ready for my closeup now. Zambar’s a sweetie.”

It’s given her a particular interest in a new campaign run by the zoo to help the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums campaign for endangered animals in south east Asia.

In spite of disability Lynne is not only a fine photographer – but has managed to design and build a delightful miniature doll’s house to donate to the zoo’s Tile for a Tiger contest.

During half term week visitors are being asked to pay £1 for one of the 550 roof tiles used to be in with a chance of winning the house that Lynne built and having it decorated to their tastes.

Lynne, who lives near the zoo, is 56. She suffered a brain haemorrhage at 27 years old.

Photography was her therapy, part of her fightback for quality of life. Her photographs now help promote the zoo via social network sites and some have been sold for zoo charities. “I do not benefit in any way financially,” says Lynne. “I cannot work. I am disabled. I get by on benefits. But I was lucky enough to survive. What started as rehabilitation has become my way of life. I’d love a proper exhibition.

“I used to work as a cook but the brain haemorrhage put paid to that. One minute I was in the shower and the next I was in hospital. There were no warning signs. Later I found out it was just waiting to happen – I could have gone at any point.

“I ended up spending my 28th birthday in hospital. I spent 18 months in a wheelchair. I will never be fit enough to work again but I was determined to get out and about. I threw myself into speech therapy and walking. I have virtually no use of my right side – and my right hand just doesn’t work at all.”

It makes her pictorial record of Blackpool Zoo – from its new arrivals to old favourites through the seasons – particularly inspirational.

Lynne adds: “I’ve always liked photography, my dad bought me my first camera at seven, and I started doing it again after the haemorrhage because it got me out and about. At first it was quite tough because the cameras were harder to handle or set up but once I got auto focus and went digital it was so much easier. I still have to take my time setting up though and always use a tripod because I can’t hold the camera steady. It was hard to do the doll’s house too but worth the effort.”

Like the most patient wildlife photographer she will often spend hours waiting for the right shot or a particular angle of an animal in her camera sights.

Her love affair with Blackpool Zoo started two and half years ago. “I hadn’t liked it when I was younger because I didn’t like the conditions in which the animals were kept but it’s changed beyond recognition since.

“My big hope now is that Zambar gets a mate – he’s a really chilled out tiger.

“Wallace the lion also knows me – I love watching the cheeky cubs nick his food; they often get bowled over in return.

“It’s been a good two years for babies. One of my favourites is Meisie, the baby gorilla, and Tebogo, the zebra, who often hides when people are about but will come trotting out to see me.

“The big cats are my favourites but I like meercats too. I visited Blackpool’s sister zoo in Madrid this year and saw baby pandas which are gorgeous. It took me about five months to get a picture of one of Blackpool’s red pandas as they’re up trees most of the time – and I spent hours waiting before I got a picture of the capybaras who live on the island opposite the zoo cafe.

“I have an annual pass which is great value and I’ll go whenever I can weather permitting. My favourite time is winter but that’s because the animals tend to be more mobile and agile then instead of sleeping and eating all the time.

“My mother always said I would marry a farmer because I loved animals but that was not to be.

“Instead I get fresh air, I have fun, I take photographs, and I have friends, human and animal, thanks to the zoo – which is why it’s nice to help them too.”