Re: what to do with a dead owl

To: <>
Subject: Re: what to do with a dead owl
From: "Ben Allen" <>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 16:52:38 +0800
This subject broaches an issue that I have thought about long and often since 
migrating to Australia over 20 years ago.

It is my considered opinion that the Australian approach to its natural 
heritage does little to foster any interest or enthusiasm in young children and 
adolescents that can later grow to be an educated passion in the years to come. 
 When I look back at my childhood and the friends I have had over the years who 
have shared an interest in various aspects of wildlife, they generally emanated 
from simple childhood pleasures such as collecting feathers or shed 
snake-skins, keeping chameleons or even having an egg collection. Often these 
activities were mildly destructive - you cannot collect bird eggs or press 
flowers with out harvesting them first but in the vast majority of situations, 
parents would instill reasonable control and assure the interest was nurtured 
but supervised and children outgrew that particular area of interest and 
generally moved onto different things such as bird watching, photography etc.  
Often the kids formed clubs at school, swopped snakes or frogs, and so the 
passion would build and grow.   Many of the most committed and effective 
naturalists I know were hunters or shooters in an earlier life and their 
subsequent knowledge and efforts have been enormously beneficial to 
conservation and preservation.

The very strict control on Australians being able to pick up dead birds, 
collect feathers, bones, skeletons or flowers does the country a disservice in 
my view.  The law in WA has recently been changed but for a long time it was 
illegal for children to keep pet snakes, frogs or tadpoles or any of the other 
harmless, un-endangered fauna that would go some way to developing a life long 
interest in and knowledge of the wildlife in our local areas.  Of course there 
are always specific cases of dreadful things happening or harm being done but 
generally the benefits far outweigh the bad and overall the outcome is a 
massive plus for the environment and our wildlife.

It is quite difficult in this day and age to compete for the young mind against 
all that is offered by sport, TV, internet, fashions and computers generally - 
and still find the time and energy to develop an interest in our wildlife, the 
environment and nature generally.  I think it would be most beneficial if those 
enquiring minds were able to collect feathers, keep a pet frog or snake or 
start a basic egg collection.  We should be actively encouraging these kids to 
pick up dead owls, cut them up to see what they might have eaten, discover the 
fantastic feather formations that they possess and generally get up close, 
messy and discover all sorts of fascinating facts about them.

In my opinion, we are far too precious about our flora and fauna.  Conservation 
efforts would be far better served by having a much greater population of 
individuals who have actually touched it a bit, know far more about it, 
actually care about it and are prepared to do something to preserve it and this 
is more likely to come from children who have had the opportunity to boil 
smelly bones, skin rabbits, keep snakes and collect sea-shells etc  It is very 
depressing to talk to my sons' university friends and find that most would not 
be able to identify more than half the birds found in the average metropolitan 
garden, are scared of snakes & spiders and generally know nothing about their 
natural surroundings at all.

I will finish by touching on two birding-aus matters that I think reinforce my 
view.  Firstly, the interest that young Jack has generated in this forum on his 
birding trip-reports, species identified etc underline how unusual his 
situation is and how few young Australians are really involved in bird watching 
activities generally.  I recognise that his activities represent just a small 
part of a very wide potential spectrum but none-the-less, I don't believe that 
young Australians are very well represented in this forum at all (clearly a 
supposition with no basis in fact), mainly because there are very few of them 
passionate about the subject.  I know that whenever I manage to participate in 
the weekly BAWA bird walks, I am always conscious of the average and median age 
being the wrong side of forty-odd and a significant dearth of youngsters. There 
will be all sorts of reasonable explanations for this but the core one in my 
opinion is that they are not very interested.

The second matter that I will mention was the instance of a young Russian (I 
think ?) who emailed the forum some time ago, or forum members individually, 
asking for feathers for his feather collection.  To all extents and purposes, a 
very harmless request in my eyes but certainly one that could not be fulfilled 
as it is illegal in Australia.  The responses by some forum members, with 
conspiracy theorists in full flight, were really quite shocking.  I was 
staggered by the extra-ordinary reaction to such an innocent request and there 
seemed to be little consideration that here was a young kid who actually 
collected feathers and referenced them in an innocent and thoughtful manner 
that did no harm to any one or anything.

Finally, to avoid being lynched, I will close my contribution by just 
confirming that I personally have never been a hunter or an egg-collector.



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