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January 13, 2016

Is our ignorance of wildlife to blame for their disappearance?

snake-australia
The Guardian published a story today (13 January 2016) about a woman who discovered a rather venomous snake under her fridge that was pregnant and almost ready to give birth. There is no mention of the snake being particularly violent or defensive and seemed simple to catch and remove, which I am pleased occurred. But it left me wondering how many times a snake like this would simply be killed. The story gave me the strangest feeling of absurdity.

I couldn't pinpoint why I felt this story was so absurd. But I think it's the fact that it appears in the media as though it is unusual for anyone to find any wild animal in their home, something that happens rather often, I suspect, but is certain to become less. I feel it is rather a prediction of how seldom we will come to welcome wild visitors into our home.

Shock is the same reaction any of us have when a spider strays into our room from outside or we have rats in our ceiling or a bat welcomes himself in, fluttering along the ceiling. But why are we so shocked when nature enters our home? We live in nature, depend on nature, and yet we are affronted - and even become violent - when an animal wanders into our homes. Why do we feel we need to protect ourselves from a majority of animals that are completely harmless to us, are more afraid of us than we are of them, and are merely battling to survive in a world that has become overrun by humans?

The geological and environmental effects humans have had on wildlife's habitats cannot be measured. The era in which we live has indeed made such an impact on the world that it has officially been named the Anthropocene era. The effect we have had on our oasis has clearly not been positive and it is certain to end in destruction, suffering, and perhaps even fire in much the same way the dinosaurs were possibly wiped out by a fiery asteroid.

Except this time the end will be of our own making.

I suppose what I am saying is that our shock and horror at finding creatures in our home should not be shock and horror. It should be wonder for the wildlife that we share this planet for; we should have respect for them and be interested in learning about them and we should already have knowledge about the animals we are likely to encounter in our lives.

Is this what is at the heart of the destruction we have wrought on this planet? If we do not have wonder and respect for the animals and other life with whom we share the environment, we have no reason to care for them and it is no wonder that we are killing millions upon millions of animals every year - indeed half the animal population was killed in only the last 40 years and we slaughter over 56 billion animals for food every year. We refuse to bother to learn about the animals of the world apart from our basic preschooler knowledge of what the animals in the zoo are. Then when we suddenly develop an interest in some exotic animal, like a tarantula, we learn about them and look at them in delight at how complex and beautiful they are. But this wonder is limited to the animals we choose to learn about. Imagine the wonder that will come from learning about every animal beyond basic biology lessons?

With our lack of wonder and respect for wildlife, it is in my opinion inevitable that we will come to share the planet with no one but our uncaring selves and the animals we deem easy enough to breed and kill for food in the future.

{Image credit: By Matt from Melbourne, Australia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}