• Ed Flattau

Wildlife Respect

It behooves human beings to treat wildlife—no matter how endearing—as possessing innate untamed impulses that can suddenly morph into violence. It is a commonplace syndrome for these life forms to invariably balk at civilization. That makes wild creatures inherently unfit to be pets.

Yet humanity repeatedly ends up learning its lesson the hard way as can be attested by a steady flow of injurious encounters between overly friendly people and snappish denizens of the wild.

Indeed, the media archives are filled with narratives of individuals who exhibit poor judgment in interactions with wild creatures.

Park rangers can tell you of numerous instances when tourists severely comprised their safety through contact with gregarious but temperamental bears.

This past week, a teenage girl got too close to two feuding bisons in a North Dakota-based national park whereupon one of the bulls charged and gored her causing serious injury.

It has ended badly when Florida pet owners – tired of the novelty of their Burmese pythons – let the non-native serpents escape into the Everglades where they became a scourge to human beings and native fauna alike.

In the Chincoteague (Va.) National Wildlife Refuge, visitors are warned not to approach within 50 feet of the wild ponies that inhabit the sanctuary. Yet the admonition is routinely ignored with periodic injuries received from an errant bite or kick. Even a Chincoteague beach lifeguard (who should know better) was injured by a well-placed kick when he foolishly got too close to a deceptively docile stallion.

One of the most egregious incidents involved a Sea World killer whale launching a seemingly unprovoked fatal attack on its long-time trainer. Then there was the case of the Connecticut woman who was seriously hurt when her pet chimpanzee for no apparent reason abruptly went berserk.

Many zoos have had visitors who, despite protective barriers, have gotten too close to wild encaged creatures and suffered an unpleasant experience. Such institutions of wildlife captivity would do best to limit exhibits to sick and injured animals on the mend along with some healthy token species for educational and research purposes. The rehabilitated specimens would be released back into the wild as part of an effort to staunch the loss of shrinking natural habitat.

The main point is not to block wild creatures’ natural evolution, which invariably does not jibe with our own. Though they occupy the same planet, wildlife operate in a different universe that we should be morally bound to respect.


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