I returned from a trip to the Capertee Valley some weeks ago,
unsuccessful in the attempt to find some Plum-headed finches.
Later that week I visited a pet store to get some plants for our fish
tank (and am I about to be hypocritical for keeping fish?), where I saw
what would have been a respectable flock of plum-headed finches in a
small cage, surrounded by cages with every possible kind of Australian
finch as well. The Red-browed finches/firetails especially looked quite
pitiful with several hunched up and sick looking individuals although
perhaps they were just sleeping. How could anyone enjoy keeping captive
birds after having seen a large flock of wild red-browed finches
cavorting and bathing in the sun at the edge of a creek?
A flock of zebra finches and double-barred finches swirling away like a
miniature galaxy come down into the grass?
Perhaps instead of (or in addition to) wildlife harvesting, more effort
should be put into educating and exposing people to the joys of real, living,
wild birds than those ones confined to small cages. Perhaps, besides
the school trips to the zoo there should be school trips to national
parks. Indeed, there are such things already I'm sure, but kids and
young people need to be told and shown that the best place for wild
animals is in the wild.
We did keep frogs and bugs and things as pets when I was little but we
knew that after a while we had to put them back where we got them from.
(Although that was probably more a result of my mother not wanting to have
a frog aquarium on the back porch after a few days.)
Don't know how we're going to convert the adults though. Or politicians,
even harder! perhaps through the kids.
maybe there should be a national campaign to give everyone a pair
of binoculars and a field guide to a few things. birds, trees, frogs,
butterflies, mammals. And let them find out for themselves how hard it is
to find those plum-headed finches.
I think the best environmental programs to save the
rainforest that I've heard of are groups in the US who do send books and
binoculars to kids in South and Central America so they can appreciate
their wildlife and protect it for themselves.
My point is, the theory behind wildlife harvesting is that by making
wildlife into a product, we give it a value and a motivation to protect
our product. Several people have argued the pros and cons of this idea
already. Shouldnt we instead be discussing how to get people to stop
seeing their prized captive pair of eclectus parrots as just another
commodity, and instead see them as beautiful wild animals that should be
valued for what they are...in the wild? Is supporting ecotourism just
attaching another kind of money value to a species and is it any better?
I'm being idealistic, of course. I also hear the argument that dolphins
kept in aquariums and other zoo megafauna are "ambassadors" that raise
awareness in people who would otherwise care less. But that doesnt make
me happy to see them confined and performing tricks for people. How much
better is that first time you see a wild dolphin riding on the bow wave
of your boat? How do you get people to appreciate that moment?
Maybe turning wildlife or wilderness into a financially useful resource
is a necessary evil to save it in the current political climate, but I'd
like to think that maybe someday people would protect
plants/animals/ecosystems for their own and not a monetary value.
And for our own happiness and sanity!
just my two cents.
finally saw a Fairy Penguin off Maroubra on Sunday!
Katie Bertsche .........If you're too busy to go birding, you're too busy.
Sydney, NSW, Australia