EPISODE 31 MAY 12, 2011
GUEST: ANNA MARIA GONZALES
GUEST: ANNA MARIA GONZALES
PRESIDENT OF THE WILD BIRD CLUB OF THE PHILIPPINES (WBCP)
Posted by Khrysta Imperial Rara
“THERE ARE NO WILD ANIMALS UNTIL MAN MAKES THEM SO.” Mark Twain
I cannot imagine a world without animals. Whether they’re companion dogs and cats, or inhabitants of the seas and forests, the presence of animals adds a touch of magic to an otherwise humdrum world. We live in a highly competitive and stressful world where work seems to be the main preoccupation for most people. But seeing a black and yellow butterfly flutter around the garden or a pied fantail tease a dog into play makes me pause from whatever I’m doing and watch in utter fascination. A few seconds of enchantment make me forget the hassles of work and allow the mind to start afresh.
Anna Maria Gonzales, architect and urban developing expert, explained that animals have existed for millions of years while man as homo sapiens has inhabited the Earth for only 200,000 years. So it is man who has encroached into the land of the animals, if we are to view evolution from that perspective. Then he built farms and cities, subdivisions and resorts. In doing so, he appropriated lands otherwise occupied by the animals, called himself “civilized” and called them “wild”.
So now we have “urban wildlife”, a term I consider to be an oxymoron. They are the frogs, geckos, lizards, birds, snakes, and other “untamed” animals that have made their homes in the urban setting. Why did they choose to live in our subdivisions or villages? Well, as Anna explained, they were already there before our subdivisions, villages and cities were built. Perhaps “displaced populations” is a more apt term. They, too, have a survival instinct so they go – or stay – where there is food, water, shelter and a place to breed – or privacy. So many of these urban wildlife species make their homes in places where they can be hidden from man’s view, places where there is thick vegetation and abandoned structures, like parks, cemeteries, empty structures, abandoned cars, tall trees, rusty, neglected pipes, etc…
“Humans are king” and “Technology will take care of everything” seem to be the motto of urban development from the day man first built settlements until now, Anna says. Forest trees are razed to the ground to make way for subdivisions where houses are equipped with air conditioning units to make up for the cool air that seems to have disappeared with the trees. We live in comfort while we destroy the environment.
Many of these urban wildlife species are beneficial to man and environment. Malotz recalled the bats that roosted in her mom’s place. While they are often hunted for their meat, Anna pointed out that bats are an indicator species - their presence indicates a healthy environment while their absence from a place where they should normally roost indicates an unhealthy environment. Plus everyone knows that fruit bats play a key role in an ecosystem – that of propagating the seeds of fruit trees.
As such, they are no longer just indicator species. They become keystone species.
Though we may not be aware of it, the animals in our midst have a vital role to fulfill in our “urban ecosystem”. Frogs eradicate mosquitoes and other insects, birds are both predator and prey and are also an indicator species. Animals, as Anna said, give us a sense of connectedness with the rest of life. They can help restore our lost connection to the natural world. They are also proof of a higher consciousness at work. And, as I said earlier, animals enthrall us and make us laugh with their antics and unusual ways.
DEALING WITH URBAN WILDLIFE
So what do we do with the wild animals in our midst? Compromise would be best, I guess. Be compassionate and know that this planet is not ours alone. We share the Earth with a myriad other species. We can build more cities but let’s take them into consideration too.
Wildlife corridors or animal travel corridors can help the animals cross under a road and meet up with friends and family on the other side of a busy street, for instance. And perhaps a little “planned neglect” can help too – why not allow shrubs and some weeds to grow in our empty lots so grass birds and other species can feed and make their home there. It won’t hurt you if the land is not occupied or being used anyway.