Some People Ignorant of Wildlife Around Them

January 12, 2007

I love this! It is true is usually our unfounded fears that cause innocent animal lives to be lost.

Straits Times Interactive
ST Forum, 12 January 2007

THE Sunday Times article on Jan 7, ‘Bee attack: Don’t fight back, just run’, is balanced journalism – educative and fair. This contrasts with previous fear-mongering reports on ‘killer bees’ which miscast unaggressive local species as their dreaded Africanised cousins in the Americas.

Competing literacies leave many ‘bio-illiterate’. Recent giveaways include a Channel News Asia presenter who ascribed the film, Gorillas In The Mist, about Diane Fossey, the late mountain gorilla specialist, to Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee expert.

A local article referred to chimpanzees, which are apes, as monkeys. Another writer feared that monkeys on one of the Southern Island might throw stones – they don’t, but apes might.

Another writer mislabelled the whale shark – a fish – as a marine mammal. Years ago, a reporter sensationalised the harmless, plankton-feeding whale shark as a potential maneater.

Some youngsters mistake the ubiquitous monitor lizard, which is much smaller and not life threatening, for the rarely seen crocodile. This may explain signs (still there?) at MacRitchie Reservoir that differentiate these animals pictorially – to obviate panic?

In the Dec 31 Sunday Times story, ‘Korean study mamas’, one of them complained: ‘Singapore is so clean, so why are there lizards crawling on the walls of our apartment? We are really scared of them.’ Why must non-humans always be filthy and threatening by default?

House lizards (geckos) don’t smell, whereas – unwashed – we and our pets reek and exchange bacteria. That creatures exist to attack us is self-flattering. Gecko droppings show their pest-control role. Cleaning up after them after initially being startled when they panic at our intrusion. Admire their adaptation to our environment – don’t fear or despise them.

American author Mark Twain said: ‘The more I see of people, the more I like my dog’. We have no monopoly on human traits. Some wild dolphins, summoned by drums, herded fish into tribal fishermen’s nets for mutual benefit.

Lacking muscles to access honey, the honey guide bird uses body language to lead animals or humans towards a beehive to share the spoils. Kamuniak, a wild lioness in Kenya, adopts several oryx calves for company instead of eating them which baffled zoologists no end.

Animals don’t deserve short shrift. Bio-literacising ourselves via documentaries, and so on will outgrow a distrust of – overwhelmingly less dangerous – non-humans. Don’t we owe our own species honesty, humility, edification and justice too?

Anthony Lee Mui Yu

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One Response to “Some People Ignorant of Wildlife Around Them”

  1. calsifer said

    Beautiful! And to the point. It’s great to see more people like this writer speak up for the non-humans in our midst.

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