We are killing wild animals by our crass behaviour and because of our ignorance of how to act around them.
Too many people are ignorant of how to act around wild animals.
We are killing and stressing wild animals by our crass behaviour and ignorance of how to act around them. We cannot resist our fascination with getting close to wild animals regardless of the consequences to the animals concerned.
On beaches near where I live there are colonies of seals and recently in the space of three days one seal pup which wasn’t weaned and too young to have a waterproof coat, was chased into the water by two young children where it drowned while the children’s mother watched proudly on.
Another was abandoned by its mother when it was surrounded by a crowd of noisy onlookers taking selfies. A third was attacked and killed by an unleashed dog whose owner either didn’t care or was unable to control the dog properly off a lead.
Criminal offence to cause the death of a wild animal.
Few if any people are aware or care that it is a criminal offence in the UK to cause the death of a protected species, not that many will even know what a protected species is.
Sadly, it is not just wild animals. I once watched two young children chasing ewes around a farmers field while their parents encouraged them finding it amusing. I had to intervene pointing out that if their children were dogs they could have been shot. Children have a natural impulse to either chase after or throw something at any animals they come across whether it is seagulls on the beach or ducks and pigeons in the park and unless guided by their parents that this unacceptable behaviour and explain why, their children will never see the harm in it. But the problem is that many parents have little understanding themselves.
Dog owners to blame also.
Dog owners are just as much to blame as well and many are happy to see their beloved dogs having fun chasing after any animal that moves and destroying habitat. I was once engrossed looking into pond in a nature reserve full of pondlife when two Labradors plunged in and turned it into a mud bath. The owner was not concerned in the least. Chasing animals or disturbing them appears to be a recreational sport to some and yet they would probably object to hare coursing or sheep worrying.
This human intervention as it is often called, or ignorant and crass behaviour, is a worldwide problem. The smiles on the faces of the holidaymakers on the beach and these on a Costa Rican turtle egg laying beach are more proof of this behaviour. Some of the adults and their children were witnessed posing and riding on their backs.
The problems arise when the animals cannot escape or are forced to abandon their dependents. No wonder most wildlife runs for the hills when they see humans approaching. Meanwhile back at the seal colony in Norfolk they are building a 1.2 km. fence at considerable cost to protect the seals from us and our pets.
The fact that these gentle whales were using “classic defensive actions” is proof that they were upset and stressed.
Recently on Ningaloo reef off the north west coast of Australia there have been three incidents in just one week involving tourists being seriously injured while swimming with whales on new organised tours. A 27 year old woman suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding when hit by a humpback whale and had to be flown by Flying Doctor to Perth for treatment. A week later another woman suffered the same fate and there have been other incidents to tourists causing minor injuries. All this because entrepreneurs want to add another extreme tourist attraction to visiting the reef. As if disturbing them by shadowing them with boats is not intrusive enough.
In all these incidents there was no malice on the part of the whales just humans getting in their way and upsetting them and posing a perceived threat to their calves. As one tour operator put it:
“The whale immediately swam straight at the group [of tourists] to place herself between her group and her calf and she then engaged in a number of really classic defensive actions right next to the group including slapping her pectoral fins onto the water and slapping her tail down into the water. Unfortunately when she was doing that one of the swimmers was hit by her tail and another was hit by her pectoral fin less seriously.“.
Nine News, Perth
These new swimming encounters are being monitored by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in the Ningaloo Marine Park and will undoubtedly be a great success. They are scheduled to become a permanent licensed industry in 2021 at the completion of a five-year trial and all kinds of regulations, codes of practice and safety procedures are being trialed just so someone can make money out of it, when in fact for the safety and wellbeing of all concerned it would be sensible to ban such ventures. The big question is whether a Government conservation department should be encouraging such ventures.
We all want to be a David Attenborough.
It regrettably seems that there are no limits to the lengths we will go to disturb and stress wild animals in their natural habit in our pursuit of getting up close and personal with them. It is a compulsion that appears to be fueled by social media and wanting to emulate the exploits of icons like David Attenborough Steve Irwin and other wildlife presenters, adventurers and celebrities we see on TV. We have this belief that animals only exist to entertain us and have no interests in a life of their own. Everybody wants to get a piece of animals.
Whether it be be swimming with dolphins, aggravating sharks from the safety of cages, disturbing egg laying turtles, damaging coral, having selfies with drugged up tigers, monkeys or snakes, visiting gorillas or riding on elephants, everybody wants a piece of the action. It is on everyone’s bucket list to get up close and personal with an exotic animal and to have a selfie or photograph taken to put on social media despite the stress, suffering and disturbance caused to the animals.
The problem now is that there are too many people wanting to do it and this just encourages more such wildlife encounters to make it easy for us and we selfishly give little thought to the stress or suffering we may be causing. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to be in the presence of animals but there has to be a compromise and it should be done from a discreet distance and the right reasons. It should be a respectful and personal experience and not to just to get a selfie photograph or to touch the animal. Unfortunately we are reaching a point where we cannot all be a David Attenborough. We can already view marine animals from a boat we do not need to get in the water with them.