Release you into the wild?

Posted on March 23, 2010
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Recently a killer whale with a Canadian passport killed a trainer at Sea World in Florida. It seems likely the whale mistook the trainer’s ponytail for a toy. There were also signs the whale was also in turmoil so who knows?

In Florida, one sees signs near any pond, bayou or swamp that read, “Do not feed or molest the alligators”. Apparently some folk don’t understand that they might be finished wanting to feed the alligators before the alligators are finished wanting to eat. Alligators can reach speeds of almost 50 km/hr for short bursts. You cannot.

The brilliant comedian, Chris Rock, commented on the Siberian tiger that mauled Roy Horn of the Las Vegas act, Siegfried and Roy. Rock said most news reports said the tiger went berserk.

“Tiger didn’t go berserk,” Rock said. “Tiger went tiger!”

I have a 21-year-old cat. Cats do not do unconditional love but I know she likes what I do for her and enjoys my company. She likes to be petted and have her ears scratched.

Still, every now and then, she goes tiger. She will grab my wrist with her front paws and claws, sink her teeth into the meaty part of my palm and rake the inside of my forearms with her hind legs and claws. It is over in an instant when she realizes what she is doing. She never apologizes or shows any signs of guilt. It doesn’t occur to her that tiger should not go tiger.

I think it is extremely dangerous for humans to interact with Killer Whales, pythons, dogs bred to guard or attack, tigers, bears or any other creatures equipped and genetically programmed to kill and eat meat.

It is even a good idea to beware of horses, moose, bulls, and any other large herbivore that is inclined to protect itself, its young or its harem.

Every year, everywhere in the world, trained and docile elephants suddenly throw tantrums and kill people.

Even dolphins, who often try to help humans in trouble in the water, sometimes like to play keep away. Instead of taking your hat and keeping it away from you, they keep you away from shore. It’s just a game, you understand, but the way you signal it is over is to drown.

I believe it was Rudyard Kipling who said, “This a very dangerous animal. If attacked, it will defend itself.”

Yeah, sure, sometimes animals totally misinterpret humans and defend themselves when they aren’t being attacked. It’s their bad but that doesn’t ease your pain.

As North America becomes more and more urbanized, more citizens only know animals through Disney and Pixar. We tend to humanize not only our dogs and cats but animated bears, lions and raptors.

I admire and respect animals but I don’t confuse them with humans or expect human characteristics to rule their behaviour.

On the other hand, like humans, wild animals have become domesticated. We should not expect that, because they have animal characteristics, they retain animal skills.

One of the common reactions to the Killer Whale killing the trainer was to suggest that it and other whales be set free in the wild. It is strange to think that some people think animals born or raised in captivity can just go out to the ocean or the jungle and carry on as if they had always been there.

What would they think of the idea of taking them to a forest wilderness and releasing them back into the wild? Would they expect that city folk would just settle in and carry on? We don’t even expect people who have been in prison for extended stays to fit seamlessly back into society when released.

Is it, then, reasonable to expect a whale or a tiger would simply fit into a wild it never knew?

It is taking generations to reteach the almost extinct Whooping Cranes to migrate.

There are dozens of issues with wild animals in captivity. One is that some species are so endangered they may not survive without the protection of captivity.

Animals are part of the natural world but the answers to their survival and evolution are no less complex than our own.

Of course, we aren’t being too intelligent about that either, are we?



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