Love Me, Love Me Not

Zoo wolf

Yes, that’s me, and a wolf behind glass. When I was young, I spent a fair amount of time with the wolves of Colchester Zoo. Putting wildlife in captivity has its ups and downs, but it is educational. Or is it?

There came a moment at Colchester when I stopped watching the wolves and starting thinking about visitors. And what I saw bothered me. They didn’t read the educational panels. They weren’t moved by the incredible power and beauty of the species that is the beating pulse of the wildwood. They sniggered, pointed at the wolves, and nudged their children. “Scary!” they said. “He’ll eat you!”

Nothing wrong with a joke, or warm-hearted teasing. But clearly, the idea that meeting nature invariably instils respect and a desire to protect it is unrealistic.

Colchester

This year has seen quite incredible pressure on the countryside. Conservationists initially seemed thrilled that so many new visitors were standing in woods or having picnics in meadows. The horrific scenes at Wareham Forest, Thursley, Chobham, and other reserves – all burned in wildfires linked to recreation – are painful reminders of the downside. Yes, many tourists have been lovely and I hope they did leave with fresh passion for our natural heritage. Others, sorry to say, hurt wildlife and upset local people.

Nature has rules. We should not be squeamish about that, or fear that it will put people off. Driving a car has rules, and that is why getting a licence has kudos. The Crown Jewels in the Tower of London are protected, and that is why they are fascinating. And simply seeing a wolf or wildflower will move some hearts to great deeds, but other minds need active persuading. And in the worst case, defending against.

It’s like the parable of the sower. The seed is the same where it falls, but only the fertile ground produces a crop. If you see a wolf in a time of food uncertainty and the king offering a bounty, like in medieval England, your thought process is going to be very different from the family who run the little hotel where I often stay in rural Poland, who once told me of their recent sighting with very genuine respect and happiness.

And in the same way, if you go into the countryside thinking it’s a green gym and nothing matters but your own pleasure, being asked to avoid trampling wildflowers and keep your dog on the lead around sheep will seem a burden. But if you arrive with a sense of wonder and hunger for learning, the flowers are precious glimpses of the wild world, and conservation livestock are a link to ancient landscape traditions.

Love can certainly grow with meeting nature, but it needs a spirit capable of supporting it. Let’s all try to encourage society to adopt a respectful attitude to wild things, lockdown crowds or not.

Enough with the human aspect. Here are some Canadian wolves from a few years back, and it raised my spirits to see them free.

21 thoughts on “Love Me, Love Me Not

  1. I feel the same anguish. Some days I wonder what more I could do to educate and inform. It feels like time is running out to tip the balance back towards nature. I read a Nelson Mandala quote this morning that gave me some hope. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Day by day, we’ll keep chipping away at it.

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    1. This has been a very hard year for my local wildlife, possibly the worst in my village’s 1300 year history. The lockdown crowds brought many problems, but the relentless ‘improvement’ schemes by landowners have played the bigger role in bringing nature to its knees. I’ve felt ground down by having to watch it.

      You’re right, the only thing to do is to keep chipping away. And your beautiful blog inspires wonder and love for nature. That is such a good thing.

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  2. I wish those urbanites that don’t appreciate nature would just stay home or get their exercise in a gym. As for the bad attitude of some people at the zoo, you just have to close your eyes and ears to it. There are stupid people everywhere. Some can be helped, but many can’t. Those attitudes (to love animals and feel empathy) come right from home and are taught or neglected when children are very young. That’s my humble opinion anyway.

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    1. Yes, wonder and awe are a big help in building healthy respect for nature and children are generally more open to that than adults. And parents should actively instil good attitudes in their kids, in this and many other things.

      I’m currently reading a lovely biography of a Victorian Yorkshire lady who suddenly discovered, in mid-life, a huge passion for marine plants. She recruited her seven kids as research assistants!

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  3. I see wolves up here in NWT quite often. I still find it so amazing to see one; I have to stop and just watch. I have always taken issue with the silliness that wolves are “evil.” Wolves are just being wolves.
    I agree about the zoo idiots.

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    1. Oh, how lovely. I must get up north when travel is a possibility again. The wolves in the video were in Jasper, but I’ve seen a few in Yellowstone too. They’re doing pretty well on the European continent these days and have returned to the majority of countries. I’ve often tracked them in Poland and caught a few on trail cam there. Much less publicised, the golden jackal has now reached as far north as the Baltics and would probably have wandered into England too if the North Sea wasn’t a problem!

      I agree, I don’t see the sense in calling any animal ‘evil’ and made that point in my fox book.

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  4. Adele, from your mouth to the stupid peoples ears! Alas, there’s just too many of the idiots! They should all be strapped to a chair and forced to watch David Attenborough’s latest! I cry for our planet but unfortunately while there is any greed around nothing will change.

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    1. Yes, and be taught some basic values of respect while they’re about it! People are just…amazing, and not in a good way.

      Hope all’s well with you. It looks like the West Coast here this morning, lots and lots of rain!

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  5. Very good post. So far I have seen a wolf in wild only once, for a split second, on a remote road on Vancouver Island. There were so many tracks near Tofino and on Vargas island but they are good to keep their privacy.
    As for many people who go into the back country, I won’t waste my words; they represent everything that is wrong with our society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes they are, and the island’s thick forests help them. I never did see one on the island but just had that one brief sighting of a cougar. And bears of course, often.

      This may be more a European issue because so much backcountry in Canada is public land, but we have certain private landowners here who have also committed terrible environmental abuses. Between selfish tourists and reckless landowners, the wild world – or what is left of it – will be glad to see the back of this year.

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  6. Such a sobering post. I am amazed that even people who know better see wild places as their playground and see themselves as exceptions, allowing themselves to drive on the beach, let the dog run free in sensitive areas, make fires, drive off road, walk off pathways, handfeed wild animals, drive too fast, etc, even if they concede other people should not do that. I agree that rules need to be imposed and even policed in the interests of protecting the environment and its creatures where possible.
    It is hard to know how to help people be more open to caring and respect. We all, myself included, continue to have breakthrough moments where we learn something salutary and/or life changing. I have seen many adults have such moments, so change in attitude and behaviour can happen, if that is any consolation in the face of all the ongoing selfishness and destruction.
    Please keep on with all the good work you do on behalf of foxes and other animals.
    Your photos of the captive wolf are very touching, and I loved seeing the video footage of the wild wolves.
    Take care and best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Carol. It is a troubling problem and one that wild places across the globe are battling to contain. But every person who has a change of heart is one step in the right direction.

      We’re back in full national lockdown here and I’m waiting to see what that will mean for the great outdoors. Trail conditions are currently very poor with snow showers and vast amounts of mud. This isn’t the uplands but we still have steep hills and it is possible to have a nasty tumble (I fall over at least once a winter, and that’s with proper boots and after a lifetime of grappling with wintry downland conditions), so hopefully anyone who does venture out won’t put themselves at risk.

      Take care too, and happy new year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope that you can get outdoors safely and the weather conditions improve. I am really sad to read about the escalating surge in the UK. We are in a similar predicament here in SA with hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Keep safe.

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